An exploration of the innovation process in small digital marketing agencies in the UK : understanding the social, knowledge and structural capital implications

Menelec, V 2018, An exploration of the innovation process in small digital marketing agencies in the UK : understanding the social, knowledge and structural capital implications , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Abstract

In this increasingly complex and competitive society organisations are compelled to innovate developing inter-organisational relationships and sharing knowledge. In service innovation one key characteristic of the service innovation process is the involvement of parties from the external environment of organisations, such as clients, among others, who provide beneficial resources, particularly to small service organisations. These influential relationships have commonly been investigated through the approach of social capital. Also influential to the service innovation process are knowledge (a resource of social capital and an internal organisational resource), and structural capital (which as an internal structure provides support to both social and knowledge capital). Therefore, the study aimed to further understand the service innovation process in the light of social, knowledge and structural capital. The background to the research highlighted the imperative for small digital marketing agencies to innovate with limited resources, which provided the grounds for the study.

A qualitative approach was used to gain a better understanding of the experience and behaviour of small digital marketing agencies with regard to their innovation. A total of thirty interviews were completed. Multiple case studies were carried out among thirteen agencies to allow a wider and deeper exploration of the research questions. An expert interview methodology was also applied for its suitability to achieve one objective of the study. Thirteen experts were interviewed to collect insights based on their practical experiences in digital marketing, which were used to develop recommendations.

Analysis from the findings highlighted that small digital marketing agencies used an innovation process that was sequential but nonetheless flexible and open to the challenges of service innovation. Weak ties and strong ties creatively and technically strengthened the process and enhanced its consistency, while trust was largely based on the ability of agencies to deliver the work. Moreover, the process was found to be reliant on creative knowledge in addition to technical knowledge. Organisational knowledge was held in tangible systems, intangible practices and employees, which enhanced the efficiency, quality and interactivity of the process by enabling better planning, quality control and communication with the task environment. Finally, a need to establish a practice of co-production with clients was highlighted as one key recommendation to enhance the innovation process through the combination of resources.

Several contributions were drawn, with the first being the presentation of a comprehensive picture of innovation by seeking to understand the innovation process with regard to social, knowledge and structural capital. Furthermore, a theoretical link between each element was provided, thus filling the gap highlighted in the literature. The study also contribute to the discussion of intellectual capital with the first application of a theoretical framework of intangible assets that encompasses knowledge as capital, in addition to social and structural capital. The use of a multidimensional social capital framework also provided a dynamic illustration of inter-organisational relationships in the context of services. The study also contribute to the discussion of intellectual capital with the first application of a theoretical framework of intangible assets that encompasses knowledge as capital, in addition to social and structural capital.

The learning gained from small digital marketing agencies and their innovation process contributes to the development of the integrative approach to service innovation that seeks to be relevant to both manufacturing and services. The consideration of expert interviews as a research methodology provided some new empirical insights for adding to the discussion on methodological triangulation in qualitative studies. Through recommendations practical contributions were also offered for improvements in the innovation process in small digital marketing agencies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Allman, KL (Supervisor) and Udagedara, RMUS (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School
Funders: University of Salford
Depositing User: Valerie Menelec
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2018 15:31
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2018 15:31
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/48478

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