Collaboration and competition in firm-internal ideation management Two alternatives – and a third way out

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: The passive reliance on ideas to spontaneously emerge within companies is today replaced with more active and continuous ideation management that embraces employees from different functions and knowledge-domains within the company to create and develop ideas. A frequently observed feature in the active management of ideation is the reliance on collaboration and competition mechanisms. These mechanisms use the strength of enabling people to working together towards a shared interest (collaboration) and the power of enabling people to outperform each other in submitting the best idea (competition). The existing research on collaboration and competition in ideation is found inconclusive about their effects as collaboration is stated to both enhance and hamper performance, and as competition is claimed to both drive and reduce performance in ideation. This constitutes a limitation to the management of ideation as it reduces the ability to actively and purposefully guide ideation through a deliberate use of the two mechanisms.The aim of this thesis is to investigate collaboration and competition mechanisms in firm-internal ideation. A multi-methodological approach has been deployed using three different studies: a multiple case study, a survey, and an experiment. This has allowed for the phenomenon of ideation to be studied using different perspectives and for the individual results to be triangulated. The empirical data has been acquired from both industry and experiments with university students.The conducted research has revealed that the inconsistencies on the effects from the two mechanisms are possible to understand and resolve by applying a more detailed level of analysis. When competition is decomposed into components of individual- and group competition, it is found that individual competition drives idea quantity and that it hampers collaboration, whereas group competition instead is found to induce collaboration and to nurture idea quality. This indicates that competition can be used to manage levels of collaboration in ideation, thereby bridging the two mechanisms.This thesis further presents that the individual effects from each of the mechanisms are complementary to each other. This implies that the effect from each mechanism is retained when combined with the other mechanisms, and that the combined effect is equal to, or even greater than, the sum of the individual effects. This combined use is found to drive both ideation efficiency and motivation, and is offering management an interesting third alternative, out of the two mechanisms, of how firm-internal ideation can be managed in a more effective and efficient manner.An analytical framework is included, presenting the interrelationships between the mechanisms, motivation, ideation behavior and the ideation performance.