Share to acquire? An exploration of interfirm and intrafirm knowledge transfer processes within collaboration projects of Sara Lee International Coffee & Tea

Ravenswaaij, Lonneke van (2007) Share to acquire? An exploration of interfirm and intrafirm knowledge transfer processes within collaboration projects of Sara Lee International Coffee & Tea.

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Abstract:Sara Lee International Coffee & Tea is already worldwide known for their innovations developed with external partners. In order to ensure a continuous supply of innovations in the future, the company is developing a formal open innovation policy. However, it is not clear yet in which way current interfirm relationships contribute to Sara Lee’s innovation capability. Therefore, this study explores interfirm knowledge transfer within five current relationships of Sara Lee and the way in which the external knowledge is transferred within the organization. Following from this study is that interfirm and intrafirm knowledge transfer within the interfirm relationships of Sara Lee Coffee & Tea offers space for improvement. A list of five recommendations has been made up, which contribution can be found in an enhanced innovativeand knowledge transfer capability in current and in future relationships. These are: 1. Improve intrafirm knowledge transfer 2. Broaden the sharing of knowledge 3. Abandon the standard approach 4. Free up the contract establishment process 5. Maintain approachability and pleasant contact The conclusions which form the basis for these recommendations are clarified briefly below. 1) There is space to improve intrafirm knowledge transfer, because the accessibility and absorption of knowledge across units shows some gaps. Consequence is that opportunities are sometimes missed, which is of course undesirable. 2) Knowledge sharing can be broadened; currently the opportunities in terms of open innovation are not fully exploited. Cause is that knowledge transfer mostly is limited to the initial problem definition nowadays 3) Furthermore, the research showed that Sara Lee approaches all its partners in quite the same way, while the goals of the interfirm relationship deviate. These factors result in an overlooking of innovation opportunities by Sara Lee and therefore, a standard approach is discouraged. 4) When the tough process of establishing contractual agreements is freed up, frustrations are taken away and possibilities to adjust contracts to knowledge sharing outside the initial scope are created. 5) Since pleasant contacts at a personal level was explicitly mentioned as a facilitator of both the interfirm relationship and the knowledge transfer, it is important to maintain this level. In order to realize these recommendations various practical actions are suggested (see page 70 and further). Besides these recommended actions, the following ‘quick wins’ can be realized on the short term and without much effort. At first, the sending by Sara Lee of a newsletter with recently introduced products. This cannot only be an easy incentive for partners to get reconnected, but also shows Sara Lee’s willingness to become more open. Besides, the current interfirm relationships need to be assessed with regard to the opportunities in other disciplines. Furthermore, ensuring that the external partner has several contacts within Sara Lee can capture gaps in intrafirm knowledge transfer. A last quick win is to maintain some free time on the agenda and schedule a lunch before or after the meeting; without much effort additional, innovative knowledge can be exchanged. To wrap up, the current interfirm- and intrafirm knowledge transfer processes offer space for improvement. The actions recommended consist of realizable activities which will enable Sara Lee to transfer knowledge more effective and be better able to exploit the interfirm relationships for innovating.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/58177
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