Department of Management

Complementors as connectors: managing open innovation around digital product platforms

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  • Susan Hilbolling
  • Hans Berends, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • ,
  • Fleur Deken, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • ,
  • Philipp Tuertscher, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

In the digital age, open innovation is increasingly organized around platform ecosystems. This paper investigates how firms can coordinate open innovation as a platform strategy for the development of complementary products by independent third parties. We draw on a qualitative case study of Philips Hue – a connected lighting platform for consumers with its variety of complementary products. We identify three increasingly complex ways in which independent complements connect to a focal platform. Our findings show that managing these connections requires a hybrid open innovation approach that combines arm’s length coordination, with a large number of complementors through open interfaces, and intensive bilateral collaboration, with a selected number of partners. Our findings demonstrate that complex interconnections across digital platforms and products lead to the management challenge of navigating an ‘ecology of platforms’, which warrants future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalR&D Management
Pages (from-to)18-30
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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