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Innovation under pressure: Reclaiming the micro-level exploration space
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.), Integrated Product Development.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0592-4002
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Research & Development (R&D) departments are becoming increasingly structured and routine-based, with tight schedules and daily follow-ups. This way of working stems from increased demands for delivering products to customers quickly and with high quality at a low price. At the same time, these organisations are faced with the challenge of coming up with new ideas that can become the foundations of tomorrow’s innovations. This means that R&D departments must achieve both exploration, in terms of coming up with new ideas, and exploitation in terms of turning existing ideas into products available on the market. If these dual perspectives are to be met within a single work unit, the employees in that unit must achieve what we call contextual ambidexterity. Previous research has shown this to be difficult to achieve and has offered little guidance for organisations about how to organise and manage their operations in order to increase their chances of achieving contextual ambidexterity.The aim of this thesis is to explore challenges related to innovation that are encountered at the micro-level in contextually ambidextrous organisations and to shed light on factors that explain those challenges.This study has combined survey data with interview data from several organisations to analyse the relationship between aspects of efficiency and aspects of creativity. It was found that employees in a contextually ambidextrous organisation struggle to ensure enough micro-level exploration space, in other words, they have trouble finding time to explore ideas and making room for novel ideas.This research shows that a contextually ambidextrous approach in R&D will likely exert two main challenges related to innovation. The first challenge is a crowding out of exploratory activities in favour of exploitatory activities. One reason for this is the combination of using productivity goals for exploitation and not using any similar targets for exploration activities. Large discrepancies in how these two types of activities are treated runs the risk that the one that is less monitored – most often exploration – is likely to be crowded out in favour of the one that is more intensely monitored.A second possible challenge is the demand on predictability in project progress that is often built into organisations as a means to enhance exploitation. This aim for predictability might create a reluctance to introduce new projects with high levels of novelty because the introduction of novel ideas contains uncertainties that jeopardise the adherence to the project plan. The combination of this view of novelty in the later phases of product development and the crowding out of exploratory activities could possibly lead to insufficient room for novel ideas to gain ground in the organisation, and this could lead to less innovative output.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. , vi, 101 p.
Series
TRITA-MMK, ISSN 1400-1179 ; 2015:02
Keyword [en]
Ambidexterity, exploration, exploitation, creativity, innovation, micro-level exploration space, operational level, operations, operational effectiveness, employee, lean, lean thinking, process management, streamlining, flow
National Category
Mechanical Engineering
Research subject
Machine Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-160618ISBN: 978-91-7595-449-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-160618DiVA: diva2:790591
Public defence
2015-03-20, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, KTH, Stockholm, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20150225

Available from: 2015-02-25 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2015-02-25Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. FREQUENCY VERSUS EFFECT: OBSTACLES TO INNOVATION AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO INNOVATION SELF-EFFICACY
Open this publication in new window or tab >>FREQUENCY VERSUS EFFECT: OBSTACLES TO INNOVATION AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO INNOVATION SELF-EFFICACY
(English)In: International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management (IJITM), ISSN 0219-8770Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

A vast number of studies analyze the effects of obstacles to innovation but often neglect the operational level in the organizational hierarchies, although this level is known to power innovation. This study explores how the operative level and first-level managers in two large R&D organizations perceive innovation obstacles. Beyond investigating the mere frequency of the obstacle, we also study their effect on employees’ innovation self-efficacy. While time-related obstacles are the most frequently identified ones at both firms, they are not significantly related to a decrease in innovation self-efficacy. Instead we find that obstacles referring to organizational culture, goals and strategies, as well as project portfolio management, are significantly related to lower levels of innovation self-efficacy.

Keyword
Obstacles to innovation, determinants of innovation, innovation self-efficacy, operational level
National Category
Mechanical Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-160621 (URN)
Note

QS 2015

Available from: 2015-02-25 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
2. Exploring the tension between clarity and ambiguity in goal setting for innovation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the tension between clarity and ambiguity in goal setting for innovation
2015 (English)In: Creativity and Innovation Management, ISSN 0963-1690, E-ISSN 1467-8691, Vol. 24, no 2, 231-246 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article we analyse the role of goal setting for innovation in an R&D context. The literature on goal setting for innovation is inconclusive; some scholars claim that goals should be ambiguous in order to inspire novel ideas, but others claim that clear project goals are important in order to undertake innovation projects in an efficient manner. We aim to explain this inconsistency by taking a more fine-grained view of innovation where we study goal setting in relation to exploratory aspects such as idea generation separately from exploitatory aspects such as idea implementation. The results from an empirical survey study in the R&D department of an automotive company reveal that a general ambition to be innovative is positively related to all phases of innovation, but the effects of clear project goals are more complex. We found that idea novelty increases under conditions of either high or low levels of goal clarity, whereas mid-range levels of goal clarity are related to fewer novel ideas. These findings inform existing knowledge about goal setting and innovation, and in particular challenge the body of literature showing that only high levels of ambiguity in goal setting are a fruitful means for innovation.

Keyword
goal-setting, creativity, innovation, ideation
National Category
Mechanical Engineering Work Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-160622 (URN)10.1111/caim.12102 (DOI)000354280900006 ()2-s2.0-84928999345 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150612

Available from: 2015-02-25 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
3. Creativity just in time?: The effects of delivery precision in product development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Creativity just in time?: The effects of delivery precision in product development
2012 (English)In: Proceedings of the 13th International CINet conference, 2012Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper presents the results from a quantitative study of the product development environment at Scania, a Swedish manufacturer of heavy trucks and buses. The focus of the study has been on exploring the relationship between delivery precision and creativity. Given today’s increasingly competitive market, companies must be able to cut both lead time and time to market while maintaining high creativity and innovativeness in the organization. This study is an attempt to increase our understanding of how one means of cutting lead time, the imposition of high demands on delivery precision, affects the creation of novel ideas in the industrialization phase of product development. The results point to an interesting relationship in which the imposition of high demands on delivery precision actually increases the perception of the creation of novel ideas. The results also have interesting implications for project planning and the role of time dedicated to exploratory tasks in product development.

Keyword
Slack, innovation, delivery precision, creativity, lean
National Category
Other Mechanical Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-105534 (URN)
Conference
13th International CINet conference, 16-18 September 2012 - Rome, Italy
Note

QC 20121127

Available from: 2012-11-27 Created: 2012-11-22 Last updated: 2015-02-25Bibliographically approved
4. Myopic Creative Climate: The Result of Streamlining in R&D Organizations?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Myopic Creative Climate: The Result of Streamlining in R&D Organizations?
2014 (English)In: Academy of management proceedings, 2014Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Creative climate has been proposed as a fundamental component of organizations displaying high innovation performance, and validated tools for measuring creative climate are today readily available. In the existing literature, however, the multi-dimensionality of the creative climate concept is not thoroughly reflected, but organizations have primarily been regarded to either have or not have a creative climate. In this article we attempt to bring a more nuanced perspective to creative climate – describing what can be seen as a myopic creative climate. This type of climate is characterized by a good working environment where people support each other’s ideas and trust each other. However the levels of risk taking and idea time are lower and, more importantly, this results in a significantly lower innovation performance than is found in a good creative climate. This alters the way we view creative climate by highlighting that not all dimensions are equally important. Even in a work environment where the majority of creative climate dimensions are at high levels, the organization may suffer from decreased levels of innovation.

Keyword
creative climate, innovation, ambidexterity
National Category
Work Sciences Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-160624 (URN)
Conference
Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, 1-5 Aug, 2014, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.
Note

QC 20150225

Available from: 2015-02-25 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2016-12-05Bibliographically approved
5. Applying lean in product development - enabler or inhibitor of creativity?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Applying lean in product development - enabler or inhibitor of creativity?
2015 (English)In: International Journal of Technology Management, ISSN 0267-5730, E-ISSN 1741-5276, Vol. 68, no 1-2, 49-69 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Lean has become increasingly popular as a process management approach outside its original application in manufacturing, and it is frequently used as a means to increase efficiency in research and development (R&D) processes. Previous research suggests that lean can be used to increase R&D efficiency, but there is disagreement on whether or not this comes at the expense of creativity. In this article, the effects of lean product development on creativity are studied by means of case studies in the R&D departments of five companies. The empirical observations highlighted a number of important aspects when applying lean in product development. The data suggested that a primary focus of lean in product development was flow, rather than waste reduction, and that significant focus was given to the reduction of disturbances. Another finding was the need for a long-term perspective in R&D to safeguard creativity and that the reduction of slack time following the implementation of lean clearly limited the opportunities to undertake unsanctioned innovation projects, often referred to as 'skunk work'. Finally, the importance of management support and employee training to aid the implementation of lean was emphasised.

Keyword
lean, process management, LPD, lean product development, product development, creativity, efficiency, productivity, operations
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics Work Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-160627 (URN)10.1504/IJTM.2015.068774 (DOI)000352858100003 ()2-s2.0-84928042419 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150507. Updated from accepted to published.

Available from: 2015-02-25 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
6. Strategies for managing micro-level contextual ambidexterity: Combining exploration and exploitation in R&D
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Strategies for managing micro-level contextual ambidexterity: Combining exploration and exploitation in R&D
2015 (English)In: Proceedings of the 15th annual CINet conference, 2015Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper we study the achievement of contextual ambidexterity at the individual level, i.e. the micro-level. We explore how employees in four different teams in an automotive company use different strategies to prioritise time between, on the one hand exploration such as pre-development activities and research and, on the other hand exploitation such as realising set concepts in the later phases of the product development process. Based on our findings we argue that the status of exploratory activities must be elevated to equal levels with exploitation activities if ambidexterity is to achieved without using separation as the main strategy. We propose that clear goal setting, stricter follow-up of exploratory activities, and high levels of endurance among managers in change initiatives are ways to achieve a contextually ambidextrous organisation.

Keyword
Contextual ambidexterity, exploration, exploitation
National Category
Work Sciences Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-160628 (URN)
Conference
15th annual CINet conference, 7-9 September, 2014, Budapest, Hungary
Note

QC 20150225. NV 20160129

Available from: 2015-02-25 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2016-01-29Bibliographically approved

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Lund Stetler, Katarina

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Output format
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