(Open) Innovation in Family Firms

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The methodology presents methodological insights and reflections of how this thesis is conducted. In essence, it provides the framework for data collection and analysis. Therefore, the reader is firstly introduced to the underlying philosophical assumptions of this thesis, which underpin the chosen research design and strategy.

Research Philosophy

The research philosophy represents the beliefs and assumptions about how knowledge is developed. These include assumptions about the nature of realities (ontology) to encounter within this research and about the nature of human knowledge (epistemology) (Saunders, et al., 2012). The philosophical assumptions of this research, ultimately shape how we understand our research question, how we choose the methods for this study and how we interpret our findings (Easterby-Smith, et al., 2015).
The present study aims to explain the nature of OI in family firms while recognizing the sources for family firm heterogeneity. We build upon an extensive amount of theory, to purposefully examine the family effect in the context of OI activities and innovation performance. Thus, we consider knowledge as existent and take on a rather external and objective research position which is in line with the idea of positivism as described by Easterby-Smith, et al. (2015). Positivism assumes that social reality exists externally and can be measured objectively, to allow generalizations about the research topic at hand. Epistemology and ontology are inherently linked, hence Easterby-Smith, et al. (2015) suggest that a positivist fits a realist ontology, whereas one can distinguish between internal realism and realism.
For the purpose of this study, we view the nature of reality formed by facts and a concrete truth, which is not directly accessible, representing the viewpoint of an internal realist. First of all, family firms are not a homogenous group of organizations (De Massis, et al., 2013). In fact, heterogeneity of family firms includes many sources, not all of which are covered within this thesis. Most notably, scholars identify the dimensions along which family firms differ, among others governance and goals (Chrisman, et al., 2013). Since each of these dimensions can take on many values, for example, intrafamily succession or the preservation of SEW, the truth is hidden. In order to access the hidden truth, researchers derive the nature of reality indirectly, through for example larger survey designs to identify patterns (Easterby-Smith, et al., 2015).
Second, we as researchers believe that what we may observe in the empirical, represents just a small part of the whole explanation of family firms. For instance, we believe that focusing on the goals, ownership and management structure represents just a small part of the sources explaining heterogeneity among family firms. However, we assume that goals and management structures represent underlying causes which inherently shape family firm behavior. Thus, as an internal realist, we aim to provide an explanation for the overall observations, by identifying underlying mechanisms (Saunders, et al., 2012).
Third, as elucidated in Chapter 1.2 research on family firms is often based on case studies, which makes the generalizability of findings somewhat limited. Further, existing contributions present rather ambiguous and contradicting results, which is why this research sets to promise unambiguous and highly accurate results, to allow comparability. Thus, we as a researcher must remain neutral and detached from the research at hand, in order to avoid influencing our findings (Saunders, et al., 2012). Given a solid theoretical foundation, hypotheses are deduced, to test existing theory in a new context, being OI. Thereby, we remain critical observers during the whole research process, by explaining our results in respect to existing empirical findings.


Research Design

An adequate research design lays out the framework for data collection and analysis. It justifies the choices made and explains how we are answering our research questions (Easterby-Smith, et al., 2015). In the following, we first elucidate the research approach taken within this thesis, which is followed by the classification of our research purpose.

Research Approach

Two main research approaches exist: inductive and deductive. Using an inductive approach implies collecting data and thereof developing a theory, while in a deductive approach the researcher first develops theory and hypotheses and then designs a research strategy in order to test these hypotheses. Both approaches ultimately follow the researcher’s philosophical assumptions. Following Saunders, et al. (2012), while induction is in line with interpretivism, deduction is attached to positivism.
Given a solid theoretical foundation of family business innovation research, the present study chooses a deductive approach, which is in line with our positivistic research philosophy (Saunders, et al., 2012). Following the suggestions of Robson (2002) five sequential steps represent the progress of a deductive approach:

  • Deducing a hypothesis from the theory,
  • Expressing the hypothesis to propose a relationship between two concepts,
  • Testing the hypothesis,
  • Examining the specific outcome (theory confirmation or modification),
  • Modification of theory, if necessary.
    These stages are applied throughout our thesis. To begin with, we review existing theory concerning innovation in family firms in Chapter 2, in order to deduce our hypotheses. This is followed by a presentation of our conceptual model, which presents the hypotheses proposing the relationships between variables to be tested. In Chapter 4, our hypotheses are tested through appropriate statistical methods to conclude whether the hypothesis can be supported or not. Finally, our results are critically discussed regarding existing theory, while implications for theory and practitioners are outlined.

1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Research Problem
1.3 Research Purpose
1.4 Delimitations
2 Theoretical Background
2.1 Open Innovation
2.2 (Open) Innovation in Family Firms
2.3 Hypotheses Development
3 Methodology
3.1 Research Philosophy
3.2 Research Design
3.4 Measures and Variables
3.5 Data Analysis
3.6 Research Quality
3.7 Research Ethics
4 Empirical Findings
4.1 Findings Building Block 1
4.2 Findings Building Block 2
4.3 Mediation Analysis
4.4 Post-Hoc Tests
5 Discussion
5.1 Interpretation .
5.2 Theoretical Implications
5.3 Practical Implications
5.4 Limitations
5.5 Future Research Areas
6 Conclusion
Unleashing the Potential of Open Innovation in Family Firms

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