Conflict between Radical and Incremental innovation: Perceptions and behaviours of actors caught in the cross fire
Walsh, John B.
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The `great fear¿ is according to Ansoff (1998) is that the organizational decision makers who fail to anticipate the trends and discontinuities in the wider environment will be `left behind¿. Innovation and new product development is the lifeblood for commercial success and survival. However, innovation is extremely difficult to predict and to manage successfully. Enterprises find themselves attempting to improve existing products , process and services in conjunction with and in competition to alternate efforts to replace them. This classic dichotomy between incremental and radical innovation is at the heart of this research study. This study looks at the behaviours and attitudes of software engineers within an R+D LAB in Hewlett Packard (HP) within the context of large organizational transformations and re-positioning to a more `mechanistic¿ control structure. These engineers are chartered and goaled on development of new `innovative¿ solution for HP customers. They now find them selves in an `ambiguous¿, conflicting situation, the academic literature suggests that innovation will be stifled under such conditions. The research question posed is: HP R+D Managers and Engineers feel that radical innovation is increasingly stifled in a more `mechanistic `organization. This research by way of an online survey examines if there has been a change in behaviours and attitudes by engineers and managers in the R+D organization relating to innovation in such an environment. This attempts to validate and measure such changes in attitudes and behaviours by R+D actors as the organizational context changes over time The survey and analysis concludes that an organizational shift to a more mechanistic perspective has occurred and that user behaviours and attitudes have changed. Notably, `risk taking¿, `internal and external communication¿ were adversely impacted. The results were broadly inline with the expected theoretical outcome. Variances concerning `individual motivation¿ ; and openness to `new skills` were observed and discussed. The research concludes with a discussion on the findings, reviews implications for HP and enumerates additional possible research areas.
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