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Given the growing popularity of the open innovation model, it is increasingly common to source knowledge for new product ideas from a wide range of actors located outside of organizational boundaries. Such open search strategies, however, might not always be superior to their closed counterparts. Indeed, widening the scope of knowledge sourcing at the ideation stage typically comes at a price given the substantial monetary and nonmonetary costs often incurred in the process of identifying, assimilating, and utilizing external knowledge inputs. Considering both the benefits and costs of search openness, the authors develop a project-level contingency model of open innovation. This model suggests that search openness is curvilinearly (taking an inverted U-shape) related to new product creativity and success. They hence assume that too little as well as too much search openness at the ideation stage will be detrimental to new product outcomes. Moreover, they argue that the effectiveness of open search strategies is contingent upon the new product development (NPD) project type (typological contingency), the NPD project leader (managerial contingency), and the NPD project environment (contextual contingency). To test these propositions empirically, multi-informant data from 62 NPD projects initiated in the English National Health Service (NHS) were collected. The econometric analyses conducted provide considerable support for a curvilinear relationship between search openness and NPD outcomes as well as for the hypothesized contingency effects. More specifically, they reveal that explorative NPD projects have more to gain from search openness at the ideation stage than their exploitative counterparts. Moreover, the project-level payoff from search openness tends to be greater, when the project leader has substantial prior innovation and management experience, and when the immediate work environment actively supports creative endeavors. These findings are valuable for NPD practice, as they demonstrate that effective knowledge sourcing has much to contribute to NPD success. In particular, pursuing an open search strategy might not always be the best choice. Rather, each NPD project is in need of a carefully tailored search strategy, effective leadership, and a supportive climate, if the full value of external knowledge sourcing is to be captured.


Journal article


Journal of Product Innovation Management



Publication Date





659 - 676


health service; open search strategies; new product development