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Reasons for choosing mechanisms to protect knowledge and innovations

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Purpose ‐ Prior research has confirmed the usefulness of both formal and informal protection mechanisms for governing knowledge flows. However, there is lack of research on the motivation and needs driving firms in their choice of mechanisms for each situation. The aim of this paper is to examine the reasons for choosing formal or informal mechanisms. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The hypotheses were tested on a sample of 209 companies engaged in R&D. A Partial Least Squares was used for the analyses. Findings ‐ This study identifies statistically significant relationships between the protection need and the firm's strategy. The results indicate that there is variance in the use of mechanisms when there is a specific motivation for seeking protection, and when the firm faces difficulties related to protection issues. Research limitations/implications ‐ The data were gathered in a single country. The results may be different if practices in a culture based more on informal relations, with less efficient patent system, were investigated. Practical implications ‐ The study provides managers with useful information on the informal protection of knowledge and innovations when resources are limited. In particular, it helps them to identify situations in which informal mechanisms are potentially more useful. Originality/value ‐ This study adds to the literature by studying quantitatively the relationship between the recognised need for protection and the choice of formal and/or informal protection as a strategy. It combines both formal and informal mechanisms. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is one of the few studies examining HRM-related protection mechanisms.
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Keywords: Collaboration; Formal mechanisms; Informal mechanisms; Innovation; Knowledge protection; Knowledge sharing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-03-11

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