Resolving Dilemmas in Collective Innovation (2010)

Prof. Dr. Pascal Le Masson / Prof. Dr. Tobias Fredberg / Prof. Dr. Blanche Segrestin / Prof. Dr. Martin Wiener

Research indicates that organizations that successfully apply collective innovation methods are able to reconcile seemingly contradicting management situations. Further it is shown that people in liminal conditions, e.g. periods of transitions or on the borderlines between organizations, experience a state of flux where contradictions arise: assigned roles, and goals are difficult to understand for those individuals.


The management of such liminal conditions can either acknowledge these paradoxes or manage them. Clegg, da Cunha, and Cunha (Clegg, da Cunha, & e Cunha, 2002) review the literature on managerial paradoxes, and find that ““the two opposite poles of a paradox may be present simultaneously, beyond the will or power of management. Little can be done other than to acknowledge their presence”“ (p. 484). Managers must find their places on the continuum between the two extremes. The authors argue that paradoxes are part of the everyday practice of management, and that there is value of having such paradoxes. In this context, Beech, and colleagues (Beech, Burns, de Caestecker, MacIntosh, & MacLean, 2004) argue that the most reasonable way to handle managerial paradoxes is to simply act to transform constructively, rather than remove the paradox. From this recent collective innovation research (Elmquist, Fredberg, Ollila, & Yström, 2010, forthcoming), we know that dilemmas are present in the management of collective innovation, as could be expected due to the liminal character of associated innovation activities. However, the context of collective innovation raises new issues: How do “opinion leaders” like “firm leaders”, as well as lead users or community leaders who work together to simultaneously solve dilemmas? How do participants appropriate, and / or share results, and values? What are the forms of “centralization” at the ““collective” level (inter-firm, ecosystem, etc.)? In collective innovation research, the following issues remain unclear:


  1. How are leaders/organizations solving dilemmas? In particular we wonder how do they collectively shape the not‐yet visible or in other words the emerging future?
  2. What are the “hidden/invisible” variables (with regard to leadership, processes, IT tools etc.) enabling them to resolve resulting dilemmas? What are relevant conditions, and efficient means for creating promises, and shaping the not‐yet visible or the emergent?

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