2.8 Innovation Journey: Navigating Unknown Waters

Stefan Kuhlmann

University of Twente, Department of Science, Technology, and Policy Studies, P.O. Box 217, The Netherlands

2.8.1 Introduction

Product design and creation can been regarded as comprising an “innovation journey,” biased by unforeseen setbacks along the road. In fact, real and sustainable innovation success should rather be viewed as “by-products along the journey” than as end result. If one takes a closer look to the contingencies during such a journey, the retrospective attributions of success to certain approaches or persons will prove to be misleading; such rash “attributions reinforced top managers' belief that managing innovation is fundamentally a control problem when it should be viewed as one of orchestrating a highly complex, uncertain and probabilistic process” (Van de Ven et al., 1999, p. 59).

An innovation journey should be imagined as a journey into unknown waters or an uncharted river (Van de Ven et al., 1999, p, 212). This metaphor helps “to develop an empirically grounded model of the innovation journey that captures the messy and complex progressions” while travelling (pp. 212–213). Consequently, according to van de Ven and colleagues, “innovation managers are to go with the flow – although we can learn to maneuver the innovation journey, we cannot control it” (p. 213).

2.8.2 Method

Still, while conceiving innovation processes as uncertain open ended processes of more or less organized social action, ...

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