Exploring aspects of organizational culture that facilitate radical product innovation in a small mature company
Much recent discussion has highlighted the challenges posed by what have variously been called “disruptive”, “discontinuous”, “breakthrough” and “radical” innovations. Although the labelling may vary, the underlying themes appear to be consistent. In particular it is clear that under conditions in which the dominant “rules of the game” change as a result of emergent or shifting markets, major movements at the technological frontier, dislocations in the regulatory environment etc, even organizations with well-developed innovation capabilities get into difficulties. This is less a matter of particular technological, market or political stimuli than of the limitations of the repertoire of organizational responses available to the firm. This resurfaces a long-running concern with managing innovation in two different modes, namely “exploitation” and “exploration”. This thesis reports the results of exploratory research into specific aspects of the organizational culture within the Research and Development (R&D) setting of a small mature UK based company, Cerulean. In doing so it also identifies and discusses key management interventions for developing an innovation culture that facilitates radical product innovation. Cerulean designs and manufactures quality control instrumentation and has in the past been very successful with radically new products. In recent years this propensity for “radicalness” has declined and the company now wishes to regain this capability. A grounded research methodology and a participative action research approach was utilised to surface issues that clearly illustrated both the presence and intensity of aspects of organisation culture that enabled and inhibited radical product innovation. Participative analysis of the data identified nine emerging themes and key constructs of an innovation culture that was found to influence “radicalness” in new product development ventures. The interrelationships between the themes were discussed in the context of current theoretical perspectives in the field of innovation management. This led to the development of a conceptual model that incorporates two “ideal” archetypal forms of innovation culture. A composite instrument was developed based on existing evaluation tools and used to assess the innovation culture. First use of the instrument indicated areas of opportunity in developing a radical innovation culture. Further participative analysis of the emergent themes and the assessment and evaluations of the extant innovation culture, resulted in a series of management interventions to stimulate the development of a culture to facilitate radical product innovation. The design of the interventions was also informed by the literature and other organizations, part of a national Discontinuous Innovation Forum (DIF) undergoing similar ambitions. The proposed interventions comprise a series of linked management actions in the form of a plan to shift the innovation culture of the company closer to a desired radical innovation culture.