Network Experiences Lead to the Adaption of a Firm’s Network Competence

Bianka Kühne, Carl Cochez, Xavier Gellynck


Networks become increasingly important as external sources of innovation for firms. Through networks firms get in
contact with different actors with whom they can exchange information and collaborate. A firm’s ability to be a
successful network actor depends on its network competence. This term can be defined as having the necessary
knowledge, skills and qualifications for networking as well as using them effectively. In this paper we investigate the
link between a firm’s network competence and the benefits resulting from it in a two‐way direction. First, the
network competence of the firm facilitates the adoption of information from other network actors which may lead
to innovation success. Second the perceived network benefits shall in their turn influence the network competence
of the firm. Consequently, firms will adapt their network strategy corresponding their experiences. The objective of
this paper is to investigate the dynamics of networking and its influence on the firm’s network competence. For this
exploratory research 3 Belgian networks are examined. In‐depth interviews are used in combination with semistructured
interview guides to conduct the research. Our results indicate that some firms perceive benefits from
their network efforts, for others it is more a burden. Furthermore, in some of our cases we found that positive
experiences with clear benefits motivate the firm to enhance its network competence. This is illustrated by the fact
that collaborations are more frequently initiated, trust is more easily build, firms are more open to communicate
information and the confidentiality threshold is overcome.


network competence; innovation; network management

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ISSN 1869-6945


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