Collaborative Innovation in a Military Organization: The Importance of Transactive Memory, Knowledge Sharing, and Learning From Failure

M.A.S van Lamoen*, M.M.A.H. Cloodt, A.A. Alblas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


For addressing grand challenges, in recent decades, we have seen a growing focus on collaborative innovation in the public sector. However, despite important work, current research is paying relatively little attention to what facets of collaborative innovation are relevant and how they enhance the required innovative performance. To face the grand challenge of public safety, international military organizations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), need to pursue a collaborative innovation process. In this study, we open up the black box of collaborative innovation by unraveling three critical mechanisms that improve a public organization's innovation performance. Our specific aim was to unfold the ways that Transactive Memory (i.e., knowing who knows what), Knowledge Sharing, and Learning From Failure affect innovation performance. We do this by examining 166 responses from multiple innovation teams at NATO, Ministries of Defense, and Centers of Excellence. Qualitative and quantitative analyses show that the knowledge coordination aspect of Transactive Memory and learning from others’ failures enhance innovation performance. Surprisingly, the effect of knowledge sharing on innovation performance is nonexistent and fully mediated by learning from failure. So, we contribute by unraveling how these three critical mechanisms influence innovation performance in a public organization. Future research could validate our findings in different public sector contexts (e.g., healthcare), focus on transactive memory's role in relation to the two sides of knowledge sharing (sending and receiving), and further examine how knowledge sharing impacts innovation performance in a public military context.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalIeee Transactions on Engineering Management
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2023
Externally publishedYes


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