(Apologies for cross-posting)
If your work is at the intersection of strategic leadership and innovation, consider submitting it to a new Special Issue of Research Policy on "Strategic Leadership and New Pathways for Radical Innovations"
November 15, 2022
Mariano (Pitosh) Heyden (Monash University)
Lorenz Graf-Vlachy (TU Dortmund University & ESCP Business School)
Nadine Kammerlander (WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management)
Henk W. Volberda (University of Amsterdam)
Strategic leaders matter for radical innovations in organizations. Innovations comprise the creation, adoption, and diffusion of novel or significantly improved products, technological processes, or organizational practices (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2010). From an organization's perspective, innovations are often labeled radical when they create new markets and/or make previous knowledge redundant (Eggers & Park, 2018; Jansen, Van Den Bosch, & Volberda, 2006; Volberda, Van den Bosch, & Mihalache, 2014). Although radical innovations may come about serendipitously (Yaqub, 2018) or bottom-up (Day, 1994), they also often reflect deliberate attempts of strategic leaders to leapfrog competitors through novel concepts of creating and capturing value (Gerstner, König, Enders, & Hambrick, 2013). Indeed, strategic leadership entails "the functions performed by individuals at the top levels of an organization (CEOs, TMT members, Directors, General Managers) that are intended to have strategic consequences for the firm" (Samimi, Cortes, Anderson, & Herrmann, 2020: 3). To the extent that organizations reflect their strategic leaders (Finkelstein, Hambrick, & Cannella, 2009; Hambrick & Mason, 1984), the heterogeneous ways in which radical innovations are pursued may reflect their attention, resource commitments, strategic choices, and implementation efforts (Eggers & Kaplan, 2009; Kurzhals, Graf‐Vlachy, & König, 2020; Sidhu, Heyden, & Volberda, 2020).
There is mounting pressure on strategic leaders to step up and take a central role in prioritizing innovation (Kurzhals et al., 2020). For instance, the President of The European Commission noted upon her appointment that "[f]or years, we have invested less in innovation than our competitors do. This is a huge handicap to our competitiveness and our ability to lead this transformation" (European_Commission, 2019), calling for increasing investments in the innovation potential of firms. Although traditionally pressured to deliver short-term results, challenges reshaping the global economy, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, have seen strategic leaders scrambling to find differentiated ways of enabling radical innovations (Heyden, Wilden, & Wise, 2020). There is a renewed need, then, for future-focused answers on "how" strategic leaders can and do pursue radical innovations.
The most prominent line of inquiry in the broader literature on strategic leadership and innovation has been on CEOs' innovation appetite, often inferring radical innovation from R&D investments (Barker III & Mueller, 2002; Cho & Kim, 2017; Heij, Volberda, Van den Bosch, & Hollen, 2020; Heyden, Reimer, & Van Doorn, 2017c; Zona, 2016), innovation adoption (Gerstner et al., 2013; König, Kammerlander, & Enders, 2013), or patenting activities (Galasso & Simcoe, 2011; Hirshleifer, Low, & Teoh, 2012). However, strategic leadership is a more comprehensive activity, involving multiple actors beyond the CEO that come together to drive unified outcomes (Bromiley & Rau, 2016; Georgakakis, Heyden, Oehmichen, & Ekanayake, 2019; Heyden et al., 2017c; Li, 2021; Volberda, 2017). Even more importantly perhaps, although this literature is useful for establishing high-level patterns, the predominant focus on aggregate R&D investments and/or outcomes, may mask the myriad of new pathways through which strategic leaders can pursue radical innovations.
In turn, innovation scholarship has highlighted creative, exciting, and unconventional new pathways through which radical innovations can be pursued, with a burgeoning literature on the new "hows". These new pathways have been captured through notions such as open sourcing (Foege, Lauritzen, Tietze, & Salge, 2019; Laursen & Salter, 2014; Poetz & Schreier, 2012; Schemmann, Herrmann, Chappin, & Heimeriks, 2016), platformication (Rietveld, Schilling, & Bellavitis, 2019), advanced manufacturing (Stornelli, Ozcan, & Simms, 2021), gamification (Morschheuser & Hamari, 2019; Vesa & Harviainen, 2018), digital transformation (Nambisan, Wright, & Feldman, 2019; Pershina, Soppe, & Thune, 2019; Teece, 2018; Volberda, Khanagha, Baden-Fuller, Mihalache & Birkinshaw, 2021), agile project management (Annosi, Foss, & Martini, 2020; Khanagha, Volberda, Alexiou & Annosi, 2021), and AI/ML-enabled ecosystems (Hannigan, Briggs, Valadao, Seidel, & Jennings, 2021). Unfortunately, this literature often disregards that organization-wide resources commitments, preferences, and ultimate choices about radical innovations happen within the bounds of strategic considerations outlined at the top of the organization.
Intriguingly, the research stream on strategic leaders and that on radical innovations have struggled to synthesize into a coherent and autonomous research tradition. In the most comprehensive related literature review, Kurzhals et al. (2020) recently identified 158 papers from 1989-2019 that tackled the intersection between strategic leadership and (technological) innovation, finding that close to 40% appeared in the most recent five years sampled. Given the increasing momentum in research interest, the timing is right to consolidate state-of-the-art evidence, insights, and perspectives to inform the future of the critical intersection of these fields. However, the literature lacks a centralized point of reference for scholars, students, practitioners, and policy-makers to understand the future intersection of these two important fields. The special issue aims to tackle this need.
Aims and scope:
With this special issue we aim to facilitate, consolidate, and integrate deliberate conversations between innovation scholars and strategic leadership researchers. These two streams of research represent some of the most important topics in broader management, organization theory, strategy, and policy research. The special issue aims to document future-focused evidence, ideas, and perspectives on the role of strategic leaders in new pathways (i.e., "hows") of pursuing more radical forms of innovation, conventionally referred to across theoretical traditions using labels such as discontinuous innovation, path-breaking innovation, exploratory innovation, disruptive innovation, breakthrough innovation, or ground-breaking invention (e.g., Bahemia, Sillince, & Vanhaverbeke, 2018; Bergek, Berggren, Magnusson, & Hobday, 2013; Godoe, 2000; Khanagha, Ramezan Zadeh, Mihalache, & Volberda, 2018; Klenner, Hüsig, & Dowling, 2013; Kobarg, Stumpf-Wollersheim, & Welpe, 2019).
This special issue uniquely and ambitiously invites integration of both new ways of thinking about the roles of strategic leaders and new pathways to radical innovation. We thus raise a dual call, challenging strategic leadership scholars to embrace new pathways for radical innovation (e.g., beyond R&D investments and patenting regimes); while calling on innovation scholars to embrace the enabling and constraining influences of strategic leaders in pursuing radical innovations. Overarchingly, the special issue responds to a call by Kurzhals et al. (2020) to examine the specific new pathways ("hows") through which strategic leaders' dispositions become reflected in ultimate radical innovation outcomes.
Call for papers:
Read the full call for papers here: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/research-policy/call-for-papers/research-policy-special-issue-call-for-papers-strategic-leadership-and-new-pathways-for-radical-innovations