Overcoming hierarchy in business model innovation: an actor-oriented approach

Paolo Di Toma, Stefano Ghinoi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Purpose Business model innovation is a key element for firms' competitiveness. Its development can be supported by the establishment of an actor-oriented scheme to overcome hierarchical structures. The actor-oriented scheme is characterized by intra-organizational networks of relationships that can be established and dissolved between individuals. However, we lack an empirical perspective about its establishment; therefore, the purpose of this research is to advance our understanding of intra-organizational networks for supporting business model innovation. Design/methodology/approach Individuals create and manage knowledge aimed to innovate the business model through cognitive search and experiential learning mechanisms. Knowledge is spread within organizations by using intra-organizational advice networks, whose patterns reflect the presence of an actor-oriented scheme. This work applies social network analysis to network data from a multi-unit organization specializing in personal care services. We use a Logistic Regression-Quadratic Assignment Procedure to analyze intra-organizational network data on managers' advice exchange related to the learning modes of cognitive search and experiential learning. Findings Our research empirically identifies the main elements of an actor-oriented scheme in a business model innovation process. We find that managers are able to self-organize, because they are not influenced by their organizational roles, and that commons for sharing resources and protocols, processes and infrastructures enable advice exchange, thus showing the presence of an actor-oriented scheme in business model innovation process. Research limitations/implications This research is based on a cross-sectional database. A longitudinal study would provide a better understanding of the network evolution characterizing the innovation process. Practical implications The results of our study support organizational decision-making for business model innovation. Originality/value This study provides empirical evidence of how an actor-oriented scheme emerges in a business model innovation process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Innovation Management
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1057-1081
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 519 Social and economic geography
  • Business model innovation
  • Social network analysis
  • Actor-oriented scheme
  • Organizational learning

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