Entering the back stage of innovation : tensions between the collaborative praxis of idea development and its formal staging in organisations

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2011-10-07
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Instructions for the author
Organisaatiot ja johtaminen
Organization and Management
Degree programme
111, [133] s.
Aalto University publication series. DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 74/2011
Idea development is a delightfully and painfully muddled endeavour. Organisations invest great effort in directing and supporting it but are repeatedly disappointed with the results of their efforts. Although current academic and practical understanding of the subject has indicated the goal towards which to strive, it has not provided sufficient understanding of the means with which to reach this goal. Despite the wide-ranging interest that creativity and innovativeness have attracted over the last few decades, the details of the everyday reality of idea development remain largely unrevealed. The aim of this dissertation is to return to this back stage of innovation and shed light on the messy reality of idea development. The dissertation explores the praxis of idea development of technology experts, with particular attention to the collaborative aspects of this praxis. The study adopts the practice perspective and builds on research into the front end of innovation, innovativeness and innovation practice. From these literature streams, the basis for the dissertation is laid by studies that have sought to describe the everyday praxis, and its collaborative nature in particular. In each research stream, these studies have represented the minority approach w i h highlights the unexplored nature of the topic. The dissertation is a case study, conducted in three established companies that operate globally in traditional industries. The empirical materials were collected through qualitative methods, namely in-depth interviews and group observations. The empirical materials include 61 interviews and 29 hours of observation. The dissertation contributes to the current theoretical and practical understanding in two ways: firstly, it provides an in-depth understanding of the praxis of idea development; and secondly, it identifies ways in which this understanding is hindered in organisations. Unlike the existing understanding, the findings of the dissertation highlight the inherently collaborative nature of this praxis and, further, the immediate, situational and delicate nature of this collaboration. Based on this understanding, the dissertation also indicates why it is so difficult to support idea development in organisations. It does this by identifying the back stage of innovation, which refers to the activities that take place in informal arenas, and the front stage of innovation, which includes formal arenas (including the support structures of innovation management). The results of the dissertation show that these two regions are tensioned and largely based on different ideals. The front stage includes ideals of clarity, objectivity and linearity, whereas the back stage is organised around situational, ambiguous and iterative activity. Furthermore, the front stage views informal actors as assertive idea champions, while the back stage also includes subtle means of idea advancement.
Supervising professor
Lovio, Raimo, professor
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