Buyer-supplier embeddedness and patterns of innovation

Yusoon Kim, Thomas Choi, Paul F. Skilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe different ways in which a buyer and supplier can be embedded in a dyadic relationship and how these differences influence patterns of inter-firm innovation activities and outcomes. Specifically, to address the relative paucity of theoretical work on how dyadic configurations influence parties’ joint innovation behavior, this study examines how different buyer-supplier embeddedness (BSE) configurations change the four choices that pertain to the levels of involvement buyers and suppliers exhibit in inter-firm innovation activities. These choices concern the processes buyers use to engage suppliers; the scope of efforts in each party; the locus of effects determining the beneficiaries; and the extent to which parties disclose private innovations within the relationship. Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on social embeddedness literature, the authors conceptualize dyad level, BSE in two dimensions: relational and structural. The relational dimension describes the quality of relationship, while the structural dimension describes the intensity of exchanges between the parties. Together these dimensions allow the authors to map the differences in BSE configurations and provide a basis for exploring their links to inter-firm innovation patterns. Findings – The authors demonstrate the configurational approach to the innovation patterns in inter-organizational setting. That is, the authors conclude that different configurations of BSE are likely to produce distinctive patterns of choices for inter-firm innovation activities. Originality/value – This study applies social embeddedness perspective to conceptualize dyadic BSE. Adoption of this concept allows dimensionalizing the dyadic relationships into two distinct dyadic elements, relational, and structural dimensions. Also, the concept has rich implications for how partner firms interact and share information. The dyad’s innovation potential and patterns are considered based on the configurations of dyadic embeddedness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-345
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2 2015


  • Buyer-supplier relationships
  • Conceptual framework
  • Innovation
  • New product design
  • Outsourcing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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