An empirical multi-level analysis for achieving balance between incremental and radical innovations

From Adaptive Cycle
Jump to: navigation, search



Authors: C. A. Un

Publication Year: 2010


Journal: Journal of Engineering and Technology Management - JET-M

Volume: 27

Issue: 1

Categories: Innovation, Radical innovation, Organizational Change


An examination of 202 innovation projects in 42 firms revealed two approaches in how firms manage employees to explore new knowledge for radical innovations and to exploit existing knowledge for incremental innovations. The first is the system of organization-level management practices, whereby employees are recruited based primarily on prior work experience in other companies and developed interdepartmentally, and compensation is based primarily on joint performance without a specific innovation project in mind. The second is the system of team-level management practices, whereby employees are selected based mainly on overlapping knowledge with team members, and are trained and rewarded for a specific innovation project. Although both systems offer employees the necessary psychological safety for attaining radical innovations and the perspective-taking capability helpful for incremental innovations, each system is better for achieving one type of innovation than the other. The system of organization-level management practices better achieves radical innovations because it provides greater psychological safety, while the system of team-level management practices better achieves incremental innovations because it develops superior perspective-taking capability. Using both systems assists in incremental innovations but not radical innovations, because contradictory expectations are placed on the employees, diminishing psychological safety. The main implication of these findings is that companies should manage their employees differently depending on the type of innovation they wish to achieve.