Corporate social innovation: How firms learn to innovate for the greater good

Philip Mirvis, Maria Elena Baltazar Herrera, Bradley Googins, Laura Albareda

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

160 Citations (Scopus)


This research explores how companies learn to engage in successful social innovation through the acquisition of tacit knowledge from external parties. The study draws from literature on knowledge transfer, corporate partnerships, and corporate social innovation (CSI) and extends the authors’ previous research on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability-oriented innovation. Observations draw on a five-year longitudinal, multi-company, multinational study of over 70 firms. The research shows that much of the knowledge exchanged in CSI is tacit knowledge that companies develop from shared interactions and experiences. This article describes CSI relationship platforms along two dimensions: 1) distance of engagement from firm value chain, and 2) intensity of investments and interactions. This research relies on inductive methods and aims at pattern definition and theory building rather than theory testing. Specific examples explain CSI processes and provide guidance to managers. The findings have relevance to companies seeking to innovate in the CSR and “shared value” space, to social entrepreneurs, and to researchers interested in these topics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5014-5021
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Business Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Co-creation
  • Collaborative innovation
  • Corporate social innovation
  • Emergence
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Tacit knowledge


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