Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Innovation in small business: comparing face-to-face with virtual networking.

Hardwick, Jialin; Cruickshank, Doug; Anderson, Alistair R.


Jialin Hardwick

Doug Cruickshank

Alistair R. Anderson


Purpose “ The paper aims to better understand the process of networking by small business with their customers to achieve innovations. In particular the relative roles of face-to-face and virtual interaction are to be investigated. Design/methodology/approach “ Initially a week of participant observation was undertaken then 17 in-depth interviews were conducted and analyzed. The biotechnology sector was used for the sample. Findings “ Networking interaction could be categorized into stages. A deepening of the relationship developed on two fronts: increasing exchanges of technical information but necessarily supplemented by increased sharing of social information to facilitate tacit knowledge exchanges. As the relationship continued to develop, virtual modes could be used in an increasing capacity. The paper developed a stage model and identified the role of face-to-face and virtual exchanges at each stage. Research limitations/implications “ Generalizability is unproven. However the issues appeared typical of any technology or science-based sector and suggest broader applicability. Practical implications “ Business people cannot assume that all steps in the process of generating an innovation with a customer can be achieved virtually. The stage model provides guidance to practitioners on the appropriate interaction modes to avoid wasteful face-to-face meetings and ineffective virtual exchanges. Originality/value “ While the usefulness of networking by small business is well recognized, little is known about the process of networking and in particular the potential role of virtual communication and what can and cannot be achieved. The paper sheds light on these issues and develops an explanatory framework.


HARDWICK, J., CRUICKSHANK, D. and ANDERSON, A.R. 2012. Innovation in small business: comparing face-to-face with virtual networking. Journal of business strategy [online], 33(5), pages 51-58. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 31, 2012
Online Publication Date Aug 31, 2012
Publication Date Oct 31, 2012
Deposit Date Dec 4, 2012
Publicly Available Date Dec 4, 2012
Journal Journal of business strategy
Print ISSN 0275-6668
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 5
Pages 51-58
Keywords Biotechnology sector; Collaboration; Email; Innovation; Networking; Networks; Small enterprises; Virtual networks
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations