Learning to Collaborate through Collaboration: How Allying with Expert Firms Influences Collaborative Innovation with Novice Firms

October 2016 | Howard, Michael

Strategic alliances have been recognized as a means for firms to learn their partners’ proprietary knowledge; such alliances are also valuable opportunities for partner firms to learn tacit organizational routines from their counterparts. We consider how relatively novice technology firms can learn intraorganizational collaborative routines from more experienced alliance partners and then deploy them independently for their own innovative pursuits. We examine the alliance relationships between Eli Lilly & Co. (Lilly), a recognized expert in collaborative innovation, and 55 small biotech partner firms. Using three levels of analysis (firm, patent, and inventor dyad), we find that greater social interaction between the partner firm and Lilly subsequently increases internal collaboration among the partner firm’s inventors.



  • H. Kevin Steensma
  • Marjorie Lyles
  • Charles Dhanaraj


Strategic Management Journal

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