Abstract

In this study we focus on online-communities as an arena of opportunity recognition and exploitation. Online-communities are loosely coupled networks of professionals and/or hobbyists who share a field of interest. Within these communities, members often freely reveal new product concepts and receive valuable feed-back on how to improve them (e.g. Armstrong and Hagel, 1996; Wenger, 1998, von Hippel 2001; von Hippel, 2005). Furthermore, members share knowledge and experiences with respect to the field of interest, creating a knowledge corridor (Venkataraman, 1997) that is only accessible for community members. Many online-communities are open for commercial firms. Participating firms can thus also benefit from the innovation activities and knowledge exchange in online-communities and therefore leverage them for opportunity recognition. We study the opportunity shaping process, opportunity recognition and opportunity exploitation within online-communities. In particular, we address the following research questions: How do opportunities shape in online-communities? What set of information cues do individual members or firms lead to the actual recognition of an opportunity? What information cues shape an opportunity in the perception of individual members of firms? How can incumbent firms or entrepreneurial individuals leverage online-communities for opportunity recognition (identification of innovations, market trends, emerging markets)?

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