Relational ties, innovation, and performance: a tale of two pathways

Jeff Jianfeng Wang, Weilei Shi, Ya Lin, Xuyan Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Relational ties are valuable resources that can generate substantial advantages for firms. Multiple studies show that relational ties enhance firm performance, but whether and how innovation intervenes in this process is largely unknown. This study examines how relational ties affect firm performance via two types of innovation. Drawing on the relational ties literature and exploration/exploitation literature, we differentiate between two types of ties (business ties versus political ties) and investigate how innovation (exploration versus exploitation) mediates relational ties and firm performance in two distinct ways. Survey data from China's semiconductor and pharmaceutical industries, both innovation-oriented industries, suggests that firms' business ties with buyers, suppliers, and competitors are more related to exploratory innovation, while their political ties with government officials are more related to exploitative innovation. Interestingly, competitive intensity demonstrates distinct moderating effects on both of these pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-39
Number of pages12
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Exploitation
  • Exploration
  • Innovation
  • Relational ties
  • Transition market

Cite this