Individual-Level and Unit-Level Knowledge Transfers for Innovation: A Multilevel Network Approach

Julia Brennecke, Wolfgang Sofka, Olaf Rank

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Knowledge transfer networks are a critical component of the innovation process, enabling the exchange of knowledge, joint problem-solving, and learning, thereby enhancing innovative performance. In new product development (NPD) organizations, such networks are formed at the level of individual employees and the level of NPD units alike. Jointly investigating the formation of networks at these two levels, this study exposes cross-level interdependencies and highlights whether and how transfer ties formed at one level are aligned with or substitute knowledge transfers at the other level. Paying particular attention to boundary spanning and centrality as innovation-critical network characteristics, we apply a multilevel perspective to identify new cross-level mechanisms that determine the complex interplay of knowledge networks across levels of the NPD organization. We utilize exponential random graph modeling for multilevel network data collected on 193 employees belonging to 38 NPD units in a German high-tech firm. With regards to boundary spanning, this approach allows us to identify network patterns of overlap in which ties between two NPD units co-exist with boundary-spanning knowledge transfers between employees nested in these two units. Concerning centrality, we uncover patterns of assortativity reflecting how the network position of units in unit-level networks interacts with the position of their employees in individual-level networks and both function as substitutes. Overall, this research extends existing knowledge on the origins of intra-organizational boundaryspanning and actors’ centrality in collaborative networks for NPD and allows for a refined understanding of this critical component of the innovation process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventDRUID19 Conference - Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark
Duration: 19 Jun 201921 Jun 2019
Conference number: 41


ConferenceDRUID19 Conference
LocationCopenhagen Business School
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