Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to shed light on how family firms execute open innovation strategies by managing internal and external knowledge flows (KF) to provide a deeper understanding of family firms’ ability to innovate through traditions and create value across generations. Design/methodology/approach – Empirical evidence was collected using an online survey of a sample of 208 Apulian entrepreneurs, who were members of the association of young entrepreneurs of Confindustria in the Apulia region (southern Italy). Findings – The study derives a model that explains the most relevant factors behind the innovation processes developed by young entrepreneurs in family firms: network membership benefits; KF; track record of innovation; and the entrepreneurial attitude of employees. Research limitations/implications – By integrating insights from different research streams, namely, innovation management, open innovation and family firms, the study provides a novel contribution to the open innovation process in family firms. Practical implications – The study offers interpretative lenses for entrepreneurs and managers to understand the most suitable knowledge transfer process for encouraging open innovation in family firms, Q1 taking into consideration young entrepreneurs’ traditions and interpersonal skills, the KF in local ecosystems and network benefits as the main variables supporting the innovation process. Originality/value – This study creates a link between open innovation and family firm research by providing an empirically grounded model illustrating how the innovation process is realized in family firms.
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