Overcoming the Similarity-Complementarity Dilemma in Open Innovation Partnerships

De Groote, Julia; Schell, Sabrina; Kammerlander, Nadine; Hack, Andreas (2020). Overcoming the Similarity-Complementarity Dilemma in Open Innovation Partnerships. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2020(1), pp. 16503-16509. Academy of Management 10.5465/AMBPP.2020.47

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Despite the increasing importance of open innovation endeavors, the process through which firms select partners for open innovation and build relationships with them is not well understood. We aim to fill this gap in the literature by investigating this process using a qualitative approach. We base our findings on data from ten case studies, expert interviews, and secondary data. We conducted 53 interviews, 40 with members of the case study organizations and 13 with open innovation experts. We find that to perceive fit and enter a collaboration, firms have to balance similarity and complementarity between themselves and their partner. As similarity and complementarity by definition contradict each other, firms must overcome a similarity-complementarity dilemma. We find that while all firms use mechanisms of trust and control to address this dilemma, firms substantially differ in their propensity to engage in open innovation. This propensity not only influences the process but also – together with other factors – determines the open innovation strategy a firm chooses. We present and discuss four prototypical types of open innovation strategies.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Organization and Human Resource Management > Human Resource Management

UniBE Contributor:

Schell, Sabrina, Hack, Andreas


600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics




Academy of Management




Sabrina Schell

Date Deposited:

15 Apr 2021 10:58

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:49

Publisher DOI:






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