Affiliated Organization

Case Western Reserve University, USA


In pursuit of radical innovation, firms are increasingly turning to joint knowledge creating design activity between firms. The bulk of research on interorganizational systems, however, addresses the way transactional activity supports explicitly defined sequential or pooled processes. Design activity by nature requires cross-functional reciprocal processes that cannot be entirely defined in advance. We draw the notion of an “object world” from design theory to distinguish between collaborators on a basis other than functional groups, as cross-functional collaboration can generally be assumed in such design activity. We also draw the principles of information pooling and group interaction from the economic theory of pragmatic collaboration to address potential for inter-firm opportunism. By studying multiple episodes of collaboration in one of Frank Gehry’s innovative construction projects, our data indicates that higher object world congruence between actors generally requires lower degrees of group interaction, but a greater amount of information pooling. Less object world congruence appears associated with more frequent interaction and lower, or more strategic, levels of information pooling.