Holding on to the positive aspects of being small: A multiple case study exploring product innovation processes in knowledge-intensive companies by incorporating the variable of company growth
Innovation is essential for any organization wanting to stay competitive in the long run. (Şimşit et al, 2014). Desouza et al (2009) also point to how it is the companies with strongly built innovation processes that will take the lead in their respective industries. Freeman and Engel (2007) describe how entrepreneurial ventures by energy and luck have been transformed into growing, sustainable, lucrative companies. Managing a growing number of employees and selling of products necessitate organisational structure and business processes in order to generate internal government and external accountability. When these companies develop, grow and mature the process of innovation can decelerate (Freeman & Engel, 2007). By focusing on what a small knowledge intensive innovative company should have in mind with regards to product innovation processes when growing, the ambition of the research is to fill a gap within previous research. Also the more general and more overlooking stance on product innovation processes aims at generating new perspectives since most innovation process research focuses on only specific parts of the process(es). This thesis aims at answering what can be beneficial to hold on to as a small company grows, as well as suggesting innovation process management methods that can be advantageous for small companies growing with regards to innovation processes. Through a multiple-case study including eight knowledge-intensive companies of different sizes, their current innovation processes have been analysed as well as their thoughts on future innovation process aspects. What was found to be beneficial as a small knowledge intensive company to hold on to when growing is especially the advantages of close customer contact, informal and efficient communication and idea generation and creativity occurring organically. In particular the customer closeness seem to be a beneficial factor, seeing since this strength can aid in multiple innovation phases and layers. By analysing different ways of managing innovation processes coupled with the aspects a small company might be well off aiming to keep, some approaches have been identified. Particularly promising were the two agile methods – Agile Innovation Process Management and Agile Stage Gate. These can promote the elements of among other things close customer contact and flexibility. Also Contextual Ambidexterity and Corporate Entrepreneurship might facilitate a structure which could aid in keeping the advantages smaller companies are in possession of. The former’s strength is that every employee is encouraged to contribute to balancing exploitation and exploration, take own initiatives, be open to entrepreneurial opportunities and take initiatives, while the latter’s strengths are a willingness to support flexibility, creativity and risk.
MSc in Innovation and Industrial Management