Historical Social Research

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Jens O. Meissner & Martin Sprenger, Mixing Methods in Innovation Research: Studying the Process-Culture-Link in Innovation Management [Abstract]

Two trends in innovation management have influenced the basic idea of this paper. The first trend shows increased attempts by managers to utilize linear innovation processes derived from literature and from practice. The second trend is an increasing acceptance of the dynamics created in an “innovation culture,” as being one of the key drivers of innovation. Both approaches partially contrast each other. Researching the literature in more detail, we found that studies explaining the link between innovation culture and innovation project management are rare. Indeed there is a study by Shona Brown and Kathleen Eisenhardt (1995) which gives an excellent overview of innovation management research, but again the issue of “culture” was lacking. This missing link between innovation process design and innovation culture at the firm-level provides the theoretical framework of this paper. Behind the scenes of innovation management studies, we realized a methodological gap existed between the research of innovation cultures and their impact upon an organization’s innovation processes. Thus, we applied a methodological mix of problem-centered interviews, structural analyses, and context analyses to study the phenomenon. We conducted an interview-based single case study in a Swiss telecommunications company. From these methodologies we created a themed landscape comprising relational topics of the innovation dynamics within an innovation project in the company (one year duration) and briefly described each topic. The main finding in our study is the dynamic role-model that innovation managers in large service firms have to apply to succeed in their innovation management work. Thus, our methodological mix proved to be helpful, although some weaknesses remain to be solved in the future.