Extant research explores the role played by individuals and, in particular, founders in defining open innovation strategies at the firm level. We join this discussion by combining insights from imprinting literature that explores the enduring impact of a founder's personal history, with inputs from literature that stresses the impact of past experience on trust formation. We suggest that founders are less likely to engage in open innovation if their experiences engender a generalized lack of trust. We use a unique database that includes East and West German founders to identify regional differences in activities conducted by authoritarian regimes that could inhibit trust. We find that founders who were exposed to high levels of secret police surveillance in the former socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) are less likely to engage in interfirm R&D cooperation. We contribute to the literature on open innovation by exploring how a founder's social, political, and cultural backgrounds influence strategic decisions related to open innovation, and to recent imprinting literature by showing that variation in oppressive enforcement practices in authoritarian regimes, such as surveillance activities, can leave an enduring imprint. Our findings complement recent insights on ideological imprinting effects on young firms’ decision-making.
- Open Innovation
- Imprinting theory
- Authoritarian regimes
- R&D cooperation
- Organizational decision-making