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Inter-organizational governance and trilateral trust building: a case study of crowdsourcing-based open innovation in China

Abstract

In a case study of a Chinese crowdsourcing intermediary, we explore the impact of inter-organizational governance on trilateral trust-building. We show that formal control and relational governance mechanisms are essential for swift and knowledge-based trust in R&D crowdsourcing. The case also indicates that Chinese businesses continue to use guanxi (informal personal connections) as a relational and contingent mechanism to maintain affect-based trust, but guanxi is shown to inhibit the growth of Internet-based crowdsourcing for open innovation in China.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) Grants Nos. 71171131, 71471141, 71503108 and 91646205. It was also funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council. The authors would also like to acknowledge the valuable feedback from the editor and two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Wenbo Guo.

Appendix

Appendix


Cs.com initially invited six companies to use crowdsourcing.


Employees were asked to respond to the following questionnaire, according to their work experience:

  1. 1.

    Do you think your organization will crowdsource their R&D tasks to external clients, for example, through an Internet-based platform? If yes, list the reasons. If not, what resistances or concerns do you expect?

  2. 2.

    How will the Chinese macro-environment positively and negatively influence trust regarding R&D crowdsourcing activities in China?

  3. 3.

    What mechanisms will be effective for regulating vendor behaviours in Internet R&D crowdsourcing?

  4. 4.

    What specific changes in the macro-environment are needed to improve the development of R&D crowdsourcing?


General manager of cs.com:

  1. 1.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of R&D crowdsourcing in China? What benefits or resistance will China’s macro-environment bring to R&D crowdsourcing activities in China?

  2. 2.

    What difficulties did you encounter when you looked for vendors to bid for the tasks on cs.com? Please list common concerns that vendors might have.

  3. 3.

    When you looked for clients to place tasks on cs.com, what difficulties did you encounter? Please list common concerns that clients might have.

  4. 4.

    How is R&D crowdsourcing unique to China in comparison with the popular crowdsourcing intermediaries in the United States or Europe?

  5. 5.

    How does the macro-environment of Chinese society positively and negatively affect trust in R&D crowdsourcing processes?

  6. 6.

    What arbitration role should cs.com play? Is it necessary?

  7. 7.

    What will cs.com do to improve client/vendor trust? Will cs.com take concrete measures?

  8. 8.

    How should China’s macro-environment be changed specifically to improve the development of R&D crowdsourcing?


Artifact designer/director:

  1. 1.

    When the development team designed the website, did they consider trust as a factor? What has the company done to improve trust?

  2. 2.

    How was the website developed to increase user trust? How effective was it?

  3. 3.

    Have users made any suggestions to cs.com since it launched?

  4. 4.

    How should China’s macro-environment be changed to improve the development of R&D crowdsourcing?


Manager of QC Corporation

  1. 1.

    Compared with traditional outsourcing approaches, are you willing to use an online crowdsource approach to handle your R&D tasks? What do you think about Internet-based R&D crowdsourcing?

  2. 2.

    Do you trust cs.com and the client? Do you think they will do a good job?

  3. 3.

    Were you satisfied with the online crowdsourcee? Did cs.com recommend a sourcee?

  4. 4.

    Did you encounter difficulties in completing the transaction? How did you solve the problem?

  5. 5.

    How do you feel about your contract with cs.com? Did it cover all your concerns? Did it fail to cover any issues? How can problems be solved if they arise?


Rachel:

  1. 1.

    Why were you motivated to take an online job?

  2. 2.

    Did you trust cs.com and the tasks it advertised?

  3. 3.

    Why did you fail to finish the transaction with the QC Corporation?

  4. 4.

    What do you think about cs.com’s design and website features? Are you satisfied with the payment and work mode?

  5. 5.

    What aspects of cs.com should be improved to attract more users?


Jack:

  1. 1.

    Why are you motivated to take online jobs?

  2. 2.

    Do you trust cs.com and the tasks it advertises?

  3. 3.

    What do you think about cs.com’s design and website features? Are you satisfied with the payment and work mode?

  4. 4.

    What aspects of cs.com should be improved to attract more users?


Note: Jack and Rachel were crowdsourcees in two phases, so their questionnaires differ.

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Guo, W., Feng, J.B., McKenna, B. et al. Inter-organizational governance and trilateral trust building: a case study of crowdsourcing-based open innovation in China. Asian Bus Manage 16, 187–207 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41291-017-0019-1

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Keywords

  • Guanxi
  • Chinese context
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Open innovation
  • R&D
  • Trust