The Ethics of sharing: Does generosity erode the competitive advantage of an ecosystem firm?

Muhammad Aftab Alam, David Rooney, Erik Lundmark, Murray Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Innovation ecosystems are formed by interconnected firms that coalesce in interdependent networks to jointly create value. Such ecosystems rely on the norm of reciprocity—the give-and-take ethos of sharing knowledge-based resources. It is well established that an ecosystem firm can increase its competitive advantage by increasing interconnectedness with partners. However, much research has focused heavily on the positive role of inbound openness or ‘taking’ resources from ecosystem partners. The positive role of outbound openness or ‘giving’ resources to ecosystem partners remained less explored and often misunderstood as eroding competitive advantage. We address this gap by first developing a conceptual model about the mediating role of inbound openness and outbound openness in the relationship between a firm’s ecosystem interconnectedness and competitive advantage. We then test this model on a large sample (n = 794 managers) from Silicon Valley (USA) and Macquarie Business Park (Australia). Results indicate that outbound openness is a more important mediator than inbound openness for ecosystem firms seeking competitive advantage. Our findings suggest that the effect of outbound openness goes beyond merely generating tit-for-tat reciprocity to generating strategic benefits in their own right. The study adds to knowledge about the ethics of innovation ecosystems by showing that outbound openness to partners improves competitive advantage. Ecosystem firms, thus, do well by doing good when they increase their outbound openness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821–839
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of business ethics
Issue number4
Early online date17 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Competitive advantage
  • Ecosystems
  • Open innovation
  • Resource outflow
  • Strategy


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