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The Handbook of Technology and Innovation Management by Scott Shane

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Chapter 5. Managing the 'Unmanageables' of Sustained Product Innovation

Deborah Dougherty

Over the past 30 years, scholars and managers alike have created, developed, and validated numerous techniques, processes, and procedures for sustained product innovation in complex organizations (Nord and Tucker, 1987; Jelinek and Schoonhoven, 1990; Bobrow, 1997; Brown and Eisenhardt, 1997). Despite the widespread availability of these best practices, many mature organizations still cannot generate multiple new products over time effectively (Benner and Tushman, 2003; Adams, 2004). There are many reasons why not, including poor strategies and leadership, the transformation of technologies and markets, and competitive forces that leave the present organization out of position. In this chapter, I argue that a mistaken view of organizational structure is one major reason for the lack of innovativeness in large, mature organizations. This mistaken view of organizational structure creates three 'unmanageables' that prevent sustained product innovation: segmentalism, rigidity, and coercive control. Organizations become segmented (Kanter, 1983), which inhibits the product and strategic integrity that innovation requires (Clark and Fujimoto, 1991); their core competencies become core rigidities, which inhibits emergence (Leonard, 1998); and coercive control robs employees of the power needed to move innovations through the organization (Dougherty and Hardy, 1996). These 'unmanageables' persist because ...

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