3.3. Creativity and Social Capability: Keys to Innovation Success
Relationship effects on innovation and R&D are not independent of contextual variables or employee capabilities, among others. In addition, within contextual variables there are different levels of analysis (individual, group, and organizational). All are necessary for the analyses of innovation and R&D [37
]. This study examines creativity and SC. Both are considered factors that intervene between employee relationships and IP and R&D.
Creativity can be defined as the production of new ideas about practices, products, or processes that will be useful to firms for developing new products or processes [38
]. Individual creativity is analyzed here [22
]. The creativity of employees is considered to be a predecessor of technological innovation. Runco and Jaeger [39
] argue that creativity requires originality and effectiveness. Originality is vital, but must be balanced appropriately. Effectiveness may take the form of value. This label is quite clear in the economic research on creativity; it describes how original and valuable products and ideas depend on the current market, and more specifically on the costs and benefits. Creativity is an important channel between relationships and IP and R&D [40
]. Work teams may be able to generate environments and routines in which creativity is developed, whereby it may be considered a dynamic capacity developed to obtain IP and R&D [41
]. Creativity is an intervention mechanism between relationships, R&D, and IP, and it is an important channel. It can be considered a dynamic capacity that the employees and, therefore, the company will have, prior to obtaining innovation results.
Some authors [22
] have identified four characteristics of a creative person in an organization: fluency, flexibility, elaboration, and originality. Zollo and Winter [42
] argue that skills will help to generate mechanisms or ideas for greater effectiveness in firms. Accordingly, and before improving their IP, firms will have highly creative individuals, with patterns and capabilities. Consequently, and depending on the complexity, competitive environment or dynamism, employees may generate more or less ideas [43
]. Creativity is clearly affected by relationships.
Additionally, if competitive advantage is based on the accumulation of resources and strategic capabilities, creativity may be considered a source of competitive advantage [44
]. Therefore, considering creativity as an aspect to train and develop within the company, it is possible to argue that companies that implement an HRM system based on relationships help to develop creativity.
On the other hand, SC can be defined as the ability to have or acquire certain capabilities destined to overcome economic and social changes. Those employees, who have a certain level of socialization capacity, will have a participatory attitude in the company, will promote union, and will influence both their own and co-worker attitudes. Therefore, SC can be an instrument to generate more ideas and, consequently, improve IP and R&D [36
Thus, the ability to socialize is a personal competence that the worker has or can develop to a greater or lesser degree, and the development of this competence will make the investment that the entrepreneur makes in certain practices such as the enhancement of social relationships between employees and members of the organization, to a greater or lesser extent [36
In addition, employees with a high level of SC will be a complementary asset for the firm’s development of IP and R&D. SC is therefore an important capability for obtaining a competitive advantage, given its imperfect imitability [19
3.4. Positive Effects of Ambidextrous Relationships on Employee Creativity, Sustainable Innovation Performance, and Research and Development
This study goes a step further by identifying, measuring, and testing the type of employee relationships that enhance employee creativity and, consequently, IP and R&D. First, informal relationships refer to all the contacts that employees make between themselves and with other agents. e.g., meetings outside the workplace, group sessions. These relationships are not included in a formal document such as a labor contract. Second, formal relationships are easier to manage than informal relationships because they are based on the work environment, where the main reason for the relationship is the exchange of labor information.
The accumulation and management of both types of relationships can be important for the development of creativity and/or innovation and R&D [45
Most firms are concerned with managing employee relationships that fall within professional competencies, i.e., formal relationships [49
]. These can be important sources of innovation generation within the firm, but it is necessary to emphasize that employees can take labor relationships far beyond the formal limits of the firm. This can lead to more lasting informal relationships among employees that help to strengthen links, ties, and complementary knowledge relevant to the phases of the innovative process [50
]. In this line, authors such as Phene et al. [51
] find that employee informal relationships outside the workplace are vital for the development of new ideas, products, and processes. Informal contact networks can generate a greater number of ideas and knowledge and, therefore, greater possibilities for innovation. A relaxed work environment, where a good work environment prevails and trust between the members of the organization exists, is the ideal context for the development of new ideas [52
However, both types of relationships (informal and formal) can be important for cooperation processes, and essential in the development of group ideas, innovation results, and R&D. In addition, authors such as Adams et al. [49
] also incorporate as formal relationships those that occur between these and other agents that are related to the firms (suppliers, customers, and allies). These authors argue that these are marked relationships within their professional competences, i.e., formal relationships that can generate important sources of knowledge, ideas, R&D projects, and numerous innovation results.
Therefore, the following hypotheses are proposed:
Informal relationships are positively related to employee creativity.
Formal relationships are positively related to employee creativity.
However, Amabile et al. [53
] state that the creativity of employees can generate any type of technological innovation (product and process) and R&D. Van de Ven [54
] indicates that creativity is one of the facilitating factors of the innovative process. For this reason, the following research hypotheses are proposed:
Employee creativity is positively related to sustainable innovation performance.
Employee creativity is positively related to R&D.
Regarding the possible direct effects that can occur between both types of relationships and IP and R&D, some authors have studied the contractual relationships between employees and other external agents [55
], but they did not analyze informal relationships. Therefore, our study provides great value when proposing hypotheses concerning informal relationships, creativity, IP and R&D.
Authors such as Gratton and Ghoshal [8
], Byrne et al. [56
], and Eva et al. [57
] argue that close informal networks among employees are direct sources of innovation and R&D. In this way, through mutual trust, engagement, internal values, cooperation, or the exchange of knowledge, important results can be obtained in terms of innovation and R&D [58
]. Specifically, authors such as Gratton and Ghoshal [8
] argue that aspects such as relaxed meetings, consensus, and cooperation are factors that positively influence product innovation. Others, such as Birkinshaw et al. [59
] argue that informal, deep, and long-term relationships among employees are powerful resources for the development of innovation.
On the other hand, authors such as Tödling et al. [50
] reveal that formal relationships help the development of product and process innovation. From formal relationships, new technical and applied knowledge can be obtained that can be embodied in new innovation processes and products. Matarazzo and Finkelstein [60
] argue that the formal exchange of ideas and knowledge among employees, customers, competitors, or suppliers can contribute positively to the innovation process. It is considered relevant to introduce a new effect between both types of relationships and R&D [55
]. Considering that both types of relationships can also influence previous phases of the development of new innovations, such as the search for information, project, experimentation, i.e., to R&D, it will be possible to know in which phases of the innovative process it is more relevant to invest in according to the types of relationships. It must be taken into account that informal relationships may be relevant during the initial stages of R&D and formal relationships during more advanced phases of R&D and innovation.
Therefore, we propose:
Informal relationships are positively related to sustainable innovation performance.
Informal relationships are positively related to R&D.
Formal relationships are positively related to sustainable innovation performance.
Formal relationships are positively related to R&D.
Therefore, the Ambidextrous Organizational Approach considers relationships with two orientations (exploration and exploitation). Relationships arise when an individual is connecting with another person. Consequently, relationships arise not only from formal relationships with partners or a boss, but also from informal relationships with partners and friends within firms. There are several types of relationships: informal and formal, strong and weak, etc. This study focuses on informal and formal relationships. Some authors, such as Hayton [61
] and Paton [62
], report a positive effect between relationships and the generation of new ideas and innovation. For example, diversity and relationships might make people search for new knowledge and new cognitive approaches that promote creativity and innovation.
Dyer and Shafer [63
] show that individuals with contacts generate major creative and innovative ideas. Similarly, Sung and Choi [64
] support the idea that team relationships increase creativity. Therefore, relationships and communication are key indicators. Moreover, this study goes a step further by analyzing ambidextrous relationships: informal and formal. Although it is true that informal relationships are very important for the development of creativity and innovation, we should not forget formal relationships, as we highlight throughout the study.
We posit that relationships should not be only regarded from a formal perspective, as we are also interested in the potential impact of an informal perspective on creativity and innovation [65
]. The knowledge obtained from informal meetings can generate new capabilities and it can be oriented towards the exploration activities, and so increase the probability of being creative and innovate [23
]. Formal relationships are contractual relationships with an orientation towards the exploitation activities, e.g., meeting with boss, meeting in conferences, etc. However, employees need technical meetings to create new ideas in their fields. Therefore, authors such as Poon et al. [67
] and Wipulanusat et al. [68
] show that ambidextrous behaviors, culture, and relationships positively influence creativity and innovation.
3.5. Social Capability as a Moderator
This study goes a step further by introducing employee SC. SC can further develop the generation of new ideas, fostering the creation of new projects or innovations. If an employee has a high social capacity, they will be alert, capturing knowledge and integrating it into new ideas or new innovation processes [19
Several arguments justify the use of SC as a moderating variable between relationships, creativity, R&D, and IP.
First, employees not only accumulate knowledge within the organization (stock), but they also possess, develop, and hone skills such as their SC (flows), which help strengthen relationships for the development of a new idea, a new project, or a new product.
Second, we can justify the existence of SC as a moderating variable if we consider it a complementary asset. Those employees that achieve a certain degree of SC will help the organization obtain a competitive advantage. From this perspective, firms also need employees that have developed their SC [71
Van de Ven [54
] argued that among the facilitators of the innovative process are the context, culture, or human capabilities that help to achieve innovative performance. Others such as Muñoz-Pascual et al. [70
] show that environmental practices can help to product innovation success. Pérez [36
] and Yun and Lee [72
] argued that the ease with which employees are able to perform favors, integrate into work teams, or converse voluntarily and with their co-workers can enhance existing relationships between members of the firm and, consequently, innovation and R&D. This group cohesion and closeness helps to achieve the goals of the firm. Tsai and Ghoshal [73
] added that the communication capability, attendance at social events and meetings, or knowledge of social norms can help to establish strong relationships and therefore, innovative success and R&D is achieved. Aiman-Smith et al. [74
] and Hegde and Shapira [75
] indicate that firms supporting learning capability and SC will achieve innovation success more easily. SC may have a positive influence on innovation. Finally, Subramaniam and Youndt [76
] argue that learning capability and SC helps strengthen relationships, R&D, and PIP.
Therefore, a contingent relationship shows the effects that SC can have on the research model [19
]. Our model suggests that employees with a high SC facilitate innovation results.
Therefore, we propose:
Social capability moderates the relationships between informal/formal relationships and creativity, sustainable innovation performance, and R&D so that relationships are stronger in firms with a higher level of social capability.