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Online communities used as resource enlargement in open innovation processes are a promising concept. Yet, to date few comparative studies on characteristics of different online communities have been done. This paper identifies the cultures of innovation communities and brand communities in the environment of the Web 2.0 and shows how to use and further exploit their potential in different steps of open innovation projects. To analyze these online communities, an exploratory case study design with ten small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) was chosen. All ten enterprises worked with the same innovation intermediary, which implemented an innovation community platform into a social network and possess a brand community in the respective social network.
The key findings suggest that the potential of both communities should be brought together and used as a harmonized strategy for open innovation and social media. Based on these findings, a conceptual framework was developed which illustrates how to integrate such online communities into each stage of a new product development process as well as to interconnect them.