Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research
1997 Edition

SUMMARIES

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THE IMPACT OF ORGANIZATIONAL AND MANAGERIAL PRACTICES ON NEW BUSINESS FORMATION RELATED TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF DISCONTINUOUS INNOVATIONS IN ESTABLISHED FIRMS


SUMMARY

Name WORKSHOP
Richard Leifer

Address
Lally School of Management and Technology
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY 12180

Telephone Fax
518-276-6831 518-276-8661

Principal Topics
Site visits were made to study 8 radical innovation projects in 6 large, mature organizations. The intent was to study radical innovation projects in real time to understand factors leading to radical innovation project success. The managerial and organizational components of these projects were studied, including: the role of the visionary and champions, role of senior and middle management, team composition and functioning, organizational culture, relations with other organizational units, communications processes, uncertainty reduction processes, and project history.

Method
One site visit and telephone follow-up (1995-1997) were made to 8 radical innovation projects in 6 large mature organizations. In depth interviews were conducted with members of each project team, including senior managers, project managers, and project team members who provided historic and current information and insights. Based on data from the interviews, a fifty page survey instrument was constructed. The survey was mailed during July 1996 to twenty-five member companies of the Industrial Research Institute, who were asked to complete the survey for two discontinuous innovation projects underway within their companies. Eighteen surveys have been returned thus far and we are anticipating up to 30 surveys for the data analysis.

Major Findings
Findings indicate radical innovation is not well understood by participating companies nor accomplished easily. Contributing to project success were: a network of informal communications, the strong support of committed champions, characteristics of those champions, accessibility and support by top management and unique, significant or serendipitous events. Acting to suppress radical innovation project progress were traditional corporate cultures and current requirements on operating units.

Implications
Radical innovation projects should be loosely managed during the early stages of their development as long as there is a strong culture and explicit goals for the research and development function. This is to ensure that research activities are focused on strategic needs of the company. The role of the "hero scientist" should be nurtured. This is the technical visionary and champion. Relationships with operating units need to be developed early and the team should be flexible in terms of applications as operating unit needs change.

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1997 Babson College All Rights Reserved
Last Updated 04/25/98