Purpose – The past decade has seen substantial changes in how organisational leaders work with external stakeholders to improve innovation performance. As leaders have encouraged the extensive involvement of suppliers and customers into the innovation process this has led to the formation of supplier innovation triads that are often governed by a portfolio of strategic alliances. In this study, we explore how leaders’ inter-firm relationships and strategic alliances influence the development of supplier innovation triads.
Methodology – Our sample of firms in the Toyota supplier association is constructed from multiple datasets, including the Japan Patent Office, BoardEx, and S&PCapitalIQ. We test our hypotheses using multivariate techniques, moderation analysis, and endogeneity tests.
Findings – Our results indicate that leadership relationships to Toyota and its suppliers have a positive effect on the formation of supplier innovation triads. We find that firm-external leadership relationships and alliance partner diversity have differential moderating effects on how customer and supplier leadership relationships could be used to build supplier innovation triads.
Limitations – Our results focus on the firms within the Toyota supplier association, and this limits the paper’s generalisability. Although patent data provides a detailed information resource, it does not capture all collaborations.
Originality – We expand the leadership literature by undertaking one of the first studies of inter-firm leadership relationships and their differential effects on innovation triads. We contribute to the literature by exploring the antecedents and moderating factors that influence buyer-supplier-supplier triads within an innovation setting.