Information acquisition in international business : innovation in a small biotechnology firm

Teea Mäkelä

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

This dissertation examines information acquisition for innovation in a small firm operating internationally. The topic is significant because small firms generate much of the innovation needed to keep economies vibrant. Small firms are also increasingly seeking growth in international markets. However, they face significant challenges. Key among these is information acquisition for innovation. This is particularly challenging for a small firm operating internationally because information must cross multiple organizational and national boundaries. To gain insight into how this challenge may be met, this dissertation presents a Straussian grounded theory study of information acquisition for innovation in a small Finnish biotechnology firm. This research site is a firm that has succeeded in information acquisition for innovation although it originates from a small and distant economy and operates in an information-intensive field. Focus in the study was on activities and events dealing with information acquisition for innovation. Data on both successful and less successful innovation outcomes were collected by carrying out 40 episodic interviews with the six management team members at four points in time, thus utilizing the constant comparison technique of the grounded theory methodology. The data were analyzed using grounded theory coding and categorizing as well as Labovian narrative analysis. Four themes emerged from the analysis of the data that deviate from the literature. One, information sources differed: universities played a much smaller role than posited in the literature, while suppliers turned out to be significant purveyors of information. Two, main challenges in information acquisition diverged: instead of tacit and complex information presenting the greatest challenges, it was the simple information about prices and end users that was most problematic to acquire. Three, it was impossible to identify a single set of successful information acquisition tactics, as they differed according to subject matter. The only exception was the importance of relevant expertise: when the management team members had the requisite expertise to identify, evaluate, and analyze information, their information acquisition activities were successful. Fourth, co-location played no role in information acquisition. Instead, the management team members used their expertise to identify and acquire the “right information” wherever in the world it was located. These results set human expertise against routine. Despite the digital revolution and the powerful role now played by organizations, human judgment remains an indispensable tool in acquiring information for innovation. Moreover, its importance is likely to increase with growing amounts of information, from which the “right information” for innovation cannot be routinely collected and analyzed by electronic and organizational systems
Translated title of the contributionInformation acquisition in international business : innovation in a small biotechnology firm
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Macdonald, Stuart, Supervisor
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-60-5328-8
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-5329-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Keywords

  • international companies
  • small businesses
  • innovation
  • knowledge management
  • knowledge
  • biotechnology

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