Open to suggestions: How organizations elicit suggestions through proactive and reactive attention
This paper analyzes organizations’ attempts to entice external contributors to submit suggestions for future organizational action. While earlier work has elaborated on the advantages of leveraging the knowledge of external contributors, our findings show that organizational attempts to attract such involvement are more likely to wither or die. We develop arguments about what increases the likelihood of getting suggestions from externals in the future, namely through (1) proactive attention (submitting internally developed suggestions to externals to stimulate debate); and (2) reactive attention (paying attention to suggestions from externals to signal they are being listened to), particularly when those suggestions are submitted by newcomers. Findings from an analysis of about 24,000 initiatives by organizations to involve external contributors suggest these actions are crucial for receiving suggestions from external contributors. Our results are contingent upon the stage of the initiative because organizations’ actions exert more influence in initiatives that lack a history of prior suggestions. Our work has implications for scholars of open innovation because it highlights the importance of considering failures as well successes: focusing exclusively on initiatives that reach a certain stage can lead to partial or erroneous conclusions about why some organizations engage external contributors while others fail.
With permission of Elsevier