Exploration versus exploitation: how interorganizational power dependence influences SME product innovation? An empirical study in China

Zhengyang Wu, Feng Yang, Fangqing Wei*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose:Interorganizational power dependence has become an increasingly important factor for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to improve product innovation. This paper examines the role of power dependence in SMEs' product innovation trade-offs between exploration and exploitation. The article further studies the mediating effect of supply chain adaptability and the moderating effect of knowledge acquisition on the relationship between power dependence and product innovation.Design/methodology/approachThe study proposes a model to verify the impact of power dependence on SMEs' product innovation trade-offs based on social network theory. Two conceptually independent constructs, "availability of alternatives (ALTRN)" and "restraint in the use of power (RSPTW)," are used to evaluate the power dependence. The model also analyzed how these effects are mediated by supply chain adaptability and moderated by knowledge acquisition. The authors test these relationships using data collected from 224 SMEs in China.FindingsThe empirical analysis shows that ALTRN has a more substantial effect on exploration for product innovation, while RSTPW has a more significant impact on exploitation for product innovation. Moreover, empirical data indicate a partial mediating effect by supply chain adaptability between power dependence and product innovation of SMEs. The results also show that knowledge acquisition positively moderates the relationship between ALTRN/RSTPW, supply chain adaptability and product innovation.Originality/valueOverall, the findings of the study advance the understanding of the roles of power dependence in product innovation for SMEs. In addition, the research also uncovers the impact mechanisms of existing theoretical frameworks and extends the boundaries of the theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Journal of Innovation Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 72101246, 71991464, 71921001, and 72004052), Major Project of the National Social Science Fund of China (18ZDA064), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (No. 2019M662210), Anhui Provincial Natural Science Foundation (No. 2208085MG187), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Nos. WK2040000024, WK2040000027, and JS2022ZSPY0044), and Anhui Science and Technology Innovation Strategy and Soft Science Research-Key Research Projects (202206f01050026).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.

Research programs



Dive into the research topics of 'Exploration versus exploitation: how interorganizational power dependence influences SME product innovation? An empirical study in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this