Purpose: This study sets out to examine the relationship between firms' learning orientation and network collaboration. The aim is to investigate how learning orientation enhances network collaboration and to discuss the role of the co-innovation focus in the learning orientation-network collaboration relationship. Design/methodology/approach: Based on a partial least squares (PLS) structural equation modeling analysis of 90 small and medium-sized industrial firms (SMEs), the study tests hypotheses regarding how two diverse learning orientations - i.e. exploration and exploitation - precede firms' network collaboration. Findings: The analysis shows that learning drives firms' co-innovation focus in terms of product and process co-innovation. In particular, the explorative learning orientation is found to foster firms' network collaboration through product co-innovation. Exploitative learning orientation promotes process innovations but discourages networking. Practical implications: A key implication for business practitioners is the understanding that SMEs' explorative learning approaches drive their network collaboration. The development of novel product innovation calls for learning with partners in inter-organizational networks, whereas process improvements rely on the firm's intra-organizational learning. Originality/value: The paper provides evidence of the connection between firms' learning orientation, co-innovation focus, and networking. Thus, it contributes to the literature on organizational learning, innovation management, and business networks by explicating how learning drives a firm's networking through its co-innovation focus.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Innovation, Learning, Small to medium-sized enterprises
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1108/08858621011066026
Journal Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Citation
Westerlund, M, & Rajala, R. (Risto). (2010). Learning and innovation in inter-organizational network collaboration. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 25(6), 435–442. doi:10.1108/08858621011066026