Persistent Innovation Boundaries and How to Breach Them with Projects

Jonathan Sapsed, Bessant John, Partington David, Tranfield David, Young Malcolm

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


All organisations have uncompleted ‘innovation opportunities’ that have lingered conspicuously for years without resolution. At some stage however this persistent barrier to innovation may become a greater threat to progress because of changes in the internal or external environment. Which organisational practices are effective in triggering the innovation? This paper shows that successful patterns of practice depend on the nature of the innovation barrier to be breached. A study of 28 innovation projects from widely different sectors suggests a framework of three innovation barrier types; contiguous, discontinuous and persistent. Breaking through these constraints depends on matching the barrier to the appropriate mix of routine or non routine practice. Standard search routines are generally sufficient for contiguous barriers, which are straightforward ‘next steps’. Discontinuous innovation barriers require a mix of non routine practices with standard routines that can help to introduce the new. The third type, persistent innovation barriers are the obstinate problems that have become accepted as ‘the facts of life’, and must be taken out of the organisational mainstream to be resolved. The paper is illustrated with successful innovation projects where the constraints on innovation were pushed back. It also shows how a mismatch between the barrier type and organisational response creates conflicts in priorities and can undermine innovation. Implications of the research for managers and researchers are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIRNOP VIII Project Research Conference
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventIRNOP VIII Project Research Conference - Brighton, UK
Duration: 1 Jan 2007 → …


ConferenceIRNOP VIII Project Research Conference
Period1/01/07 → …


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