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4.2 Literature Review

The literature review showed that the applicability of OI in small businesses is a surprisingly underresearched topic and thus requires further research and furthermore provides a novel approach for this paper. Since appropriate literature was scarce, relevant and more recent studies were used to determine what is necessary to apply OI in small businesses. For that, studies about SMEs were used to derive assumptions for small businesses. This shows that there is a research gap (see Fig. 4.2) regarding whether and how small businesses can apply OI. In particular, if small businesses have a low absorptive capacity and low collaborative capability (key competences to apply OI) as assumed in the reviewed studies (e.g., [8, 9, 17– 19]). Figure 4.1 displays the level of absorptive capacity and collaborative capability in small businesses according to the literature. As illustrated (green), only market and technological expertise enhance the absorptive capacity, whereas the collaborative capability is only enhanced by a small business's organizational infrastructure. The rest of the key factors is lowly pronounced (red) or was not explicitly mentioned in the literature (technological infrastructure).

The second part of the literature review assessed the relevant literature on the research question which OI approach might be best suitable for small businesses and what constraints might emerge. Several studies on SMEs found that customer involvement, collaborations with universities, and contracted R&D outsourcing are

Fig. 4.1 The two levels of OI applicability – the required key competences of OI

Fig. 4.2 Two levels of OI applicability, research gap, and research questions

important and appropriate approaches for applying OI [7, 19, 20]. These approaches are assumed to be suitable for small businesses. Thus, it was necessary to determine whether the OI approaches of customer involvement, collaborations with universities, and R&D outsourcing are indeed appropriate OI approaches for small businesses. To do this, three research questions were developed to meet the overall aim of the paper, which is to assess whether and how small businesses can apply OI. To facilitate an understanding of the conducted research described in the following chapter, Fig. 4.2 was developed. It displays the two levels of the OI applicability: key competences of OI and OI approaches. The first level demonstrates the influences on absorptive capacity and collaborative capability. Based on the reviewed literature, it is assumed that the characteristics of small businesses may impair or enable some of the competences. It was furthermore found that small businesses seem to have more difficulties than large companies to apply OI. Nevertheless, it was also established that there are certain advantages that small businesses can offer, which arguably might facilitate the applicability of OI.

Figure 4.2 shows that the first level is necessary for and influences the second level. Thus, the two levels are arguably interrelated. Hence, the second level (OI approaches) needs to be linked to the first level in terms of which key competences of the first level are required and existent in small businesses to apply each approach. This will justify the level of applicability of the researched OI approach. Thus, it has to be investigated through primary research whether and to what extent the key competences (first level) are established in small businesses as well as which OI approach (level two) can (hence) be applied. To do this, the three research questions displayed in Fig. 4.2 have been developed based on the reviewed literature, research, and studies. The first research question focuses on the first level and investigates whether small businesses can apply OI in general by researching if and to what extent they have the required key competences. The second research question then highlights the aspect of which specific OI approach is appropriate for small businesses. The third research question tries to answer the applicability of the predefined OI approaches (customer involvement, R&D outsourcing, and collaborations with universities) in more details.

 
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