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Abstract

Innovation processes are complex. It is through local interactions among people and technologies that diverse and novel outcomes emerge. Even when governed by simple rules, such interactions can generate nonlinear temporal dynamics. Given such complexities, how might an organization sustain innovation for continued growth and vitality? Drawing on an in-depth study of innovation practices and journeys at 3M Corporation, we identify how combinations of practices — which we conceptualize as complexity arrangements — afford multiple agentic orientations simultaneously for the actors involved and thereby facilitate sustained innovation.
Organization Studies
32(6) 737 –767
© The Author(s) 2011
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DOI: 10.1177/0170840611410810
www.egosnet.org/os
Complexity Arrangements
for Sustained Innovation:
Lessons from 3M
Corporation
Raghu Garud
Pennsylvania State University, USA
Joel Gehman
Pennsylvania State University, USA
Arun Kumaraswamy
Temple University, Philadephia, USA
Abstract
Innovation processes are complex. It is through local interactions among people and technologies that
diverse and novel outcomes emerge. Even when governed by simple rules, such interactions can generate
nonlinear temporal dynamics. Given such complexities, how might an organization sustain innovation
for continued growth and vitality? Drawing on an in-depth study of innovation practices and journeys
at 3M Corporation, we identify how combinations of practices – which we conceptualize as complexity
arrangements – afford multiple agentic orientations simultaneously for the actors involved and thereby
facilitate sustained innovation.
Keywords
agency, complexity, exploration/exploitation, innovation, organizational memory, serendipity, time
In a recent Boston Consulting Group (2009) survey of global corporations, a majority of senior
executives reported that innovation is among their top three strategic priorities. Notwithstanding its
importance, innovation is difficult to sustain because it is a complex process (Usher 1954; Jelinek
& Schoonhoven 1990; Dougherty & Hardy 1996). For instance, innovation involves interactions
among networks of people and technologies from different practice domains (Callon 1987;
Dougherty 1992; Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995; Hargadon & Sutton 1997) and across micro and macro
Corresponding author:
Raghu Garud, Pennsylvania State University, Smeal College of Business, 431 Business Building, University Park,
PA 16802, USA
Email: rgarud@psu.edu
738 Organization Studies 32(6)
levels of an organization (Burgelman 1983; Van de Ven 1986). The innovation process is nonlinear,
full of ups and downs, false-starts and dead-ends (Van de Ven, Polley, Garud & Venkataraman
1999). Even when governed by simple rules, these interactions and innovation processes can gen-
erate a variety of outcomes (Davis, Eisenhardt & Bingham 2009).
How might organizations sustain innovation for continued growth, given the complexities
involved? To address this question, we explored practices at 3M Corporation, a company that has
been able to sustain innovation for over a century. We found that 3M’s practices encouraged
employees to cultivate events driven by serendipity and opportune moments (i.e., kairos)1 even as
they paid attention to events driven by schedules and clock time (i.e., chronos). Possibilities for
creating opportune moments were enhanced by practices that fostered ongoing interactions
between employees who could use the company’s diverse resources to further their initiatives. 3M
realized that ideas that emerged during opportune moments could be lost amid daily routines.
Consequently, there were mechanisms in place to keep such ideas alive. These practices were
facilitated by innovation narratives, which served as memories linking the company’s past, present
and future.
Some of these observations are consistent with the extant literature on innovation – for instance,
the need to develop structures that foster interactions and allow for the cross-fertilization of ideas,
or the need to pay attention to temporal dynamics. Where we extend the literature is in proposing
a practice perspective that considers the interplay between relational and temporal aspects associ-
ated with innovation. Specifically, we theorize that combinations of relational and temporal prac-
tices represent interwoven complexity arrangements.2 These interwoven complexity arrangements
afford organizational actors multiple agentic orientations as innovation journeys unfold. We dis-
cuss these insights and the implications that emerge when one applies a complexity lens to the
challenge of sustaining innovation within organizations.
Innovation and Complexity
Given the importance of sustained innovation for the growth and vitality of firms, organizational
scholars have long been interested in understanding the processes by which innovation occurs.
Studies on innovation have yielded a number of insights. For instance, we know that innovation
implicates actors across multiple levels of the organization (Van de Ven 1986), who interact with
one another (Dougherty 1992; Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995; Brown & Eisenhardt 1997) across net-
works of practice communities (Hargadon & Sutton 1997).
These observations suggest that innovation processes are complex. Although there are multiple
meanings associated with the term ‘complexity’ (for reviews of complexity theories in organiza-
tion studies, see Anderson 1999; Burnes 2005; Maguire, McKelvey, Mirabeau & Öztas 2006),
most definitions attribute its emergence to combinations or interactions among heterogeneous ele-
ments; for instance, between molecules in physics (see Gell-Mann 1994), between proteins in
molecular biology (see Meyerguz, Kleinberg & Elber 2007), or between humans and artifacts in
social settings (see Dooley 1997; Latour 2005). Such relational complexity (see Boisot & Child
1999) can be understood by the use of a metaphor: the mixing of ingredients together into a stew.
The ingredients that make up the stew are far from homogeneous, diversity being essential to ongo-
ing adaptation (Axelrod & Cohen 1999). Nor is this stew the work of an omniscient master chef
(Stacey 2001). Instead, relational complexity emerges from ‘micro-level’ interactions that occur in
response to local conditions (Weick 1979; Drazin & Sandelands 1992; Tsoukas 2008). Each actor
is limited to discerning the local actions of a few disaggregated individuals, never glimpsing the
entire system (Stacey 2001). It is through such local interactions that innovation emerges as a
distributed process (Garud & Karnøe 2001; see also Loasby 2007, who discusses emergence
through the combination of a limited number of organizational elements).
Garud et al. 739
The term ‘complexity’ also is used to describe the inherently dynamic nature of nonlinear
processes (Maruyama 1963; Senge 1990). This temporal complexity is readily apparent in the
phase shifts (Chiles, Meyer & Hench 2004; Lichtenstein, Cater, Dooley & Gartner 2007; Plowman
et al. 2007) that can occur as a result of deviation-amplifying feedback loops (Maruyama 1963;
Masuch 1985). Other dynamics are also implicated in temporal complexity. For instance, what may
be considered a solution in real time (e.g., subsidies for corn-based ethanol fuel) may generate
unintended problems over time (e.g., worldwide corn shortages and rising food prices). These
diachronies are well illustrated by the ‘beer game’ in which temporal complexity invariably leads
to suboptimal inventory procurement decisions (Sterman 1989).
Innovation journeys are similarly complex. For instance, the notion of phase shifts can be seen
in the work of scholars who have noted the importance of momentum in the emergence of techno-
logical trajectories (Hughes 1969). Temporal asynchronies are evident in the need to develop co-
specialized assets around an innovative idea (Teece 1986; Ansari & Garud 2009) or in the evolution
of technological systems (Rosenberg 1982). It is for this reason that scholars have drawn our atten-
tion to the importance of establishing temporal co-ordination (Ancona & Chong 1996) and time
pacing (Brown & Eisenhardt 1997). Diachronies are less obvious, but nevertheless important. For
instance, in his theory of creative destruction, Schumpeter noted that:
A system – any system, economic or other – that at every given point of time fully utilizes its possibilities
to the best advantage may yet in the long run be inferior to a system that does so at no given point of time,
because the latter’s failure to do so may be a condition for the level or speed of long-run performance
(Schumpeter 2004 [1934]: 84).
Conversely, what had been considered trivial at a given time may become a solution to an unantici-
pated problem that may arise in the future. All these dynamics point to disequilibrium processes
(Lachmann 1976; Chiles, Bluedorn & Gupta 2007) driven by time delays, lags and differences in
rhythms (Garud & Nayyar 1994; Brown & Eisenhardt 1997). Equally important, for actors involved
in these processes, there are moments of serendipity and flashes of insights (Cunha 2004; Dew
2009). These eureka moments can neither be predicted nor willed a priori, but require prior engage-
ment (Usher 1954; Irvine & Martin 1984) – a paradox aptly captured by Pasteur when he observed
that ‘chance favors only the prepared mind’.
Complexity is also evident in the proliferation of diverse forms. Actors attempt to make sense
of such diversity by placing these forms into categories (Bowker & Star 1991). To the extent that
this diversity of forms cannot be placed easily into a parsimonious categorization scheme (Hannan,
Pólos & Carroll 2007), it presents itself as complexity to the actors involved, even evoking a cat-
egorical discount when organizations deviate from legitimated boundaries (Zuckerman 1999).
Building on Drazin and Sandelands (1992), we label this as manifest complexity. In the case of
innovation, such manifest complexity is evident in the range of products and services that emerge
from research, development and commercialization activities undertaken by organizations.
Examples of such complexity include the numerous Walkman versions that Sony generated
(Sanderson & Uzumeri 1995) and the sheer breadth of Procter & Gamble’s product lines.
Complexity studies have demonstrated that such a diversity of forms can be generated by apply-
ing set of underlying rules or routines (Axelrod & Cohen 1999). We use the term regulative com-
plexity to denote this meaning of complexity. Together a collection of such rules or routines
constitutes a ‘grammar’ that governs how elements may be combined and used. This grammar may
be understood as being more or less complex, and the rules themselves may be context-dependent
or subject to their own transformations in use (Cowan, Pines & Meltzer 1994).
In the context of innovation, such regulative complexity is evident in the simple rules that
form the basis for the emergence of a variety of products and services (Davis et al. 2009). For
738 Organization Studies 32(6)
levels of an organization (Burgelman 1983; Van de Ven 1986). The innovation process is nonlinear,
full of ups and downs, false-starts and dead-ends (Van de Ven, Polley, Garud & Venkataraman
1999). Even when governed by simple rules, these interactions and innovation processes can gen-
erate a variety of outcomes (Davis, Eisenhardt & Bingham 2009).
How might organizations sustain innovation for continued growth, given the complexities
involved? To address this question, we explored practices at 3M Corporation, a company that has
been able to sustain innovation for over a century. We found that 3M’s practices encouraged
employees to cultivate events driven by serendipity and opportune moments (i.e., kairos)1 even as
they paid attention to events driven by schedules and clock time (i.e., chronos). Possibilities for
creating opportune moments were enhanced by practices that fostered ongoing interactions
between employees who could use the company’s diverse resources to further their initiatives. 3M
realized that ideas that emerged during opportune moments could be lost amid daily routines.
Consequently, there were mechanisms in place to keep such ideas alive. These practices were
facilitated by innovation narratives, which served as memories linking the company’s past, present
and future.
Some of these observations are consistent with the extant literature on innovation – for instance,
the need to develop structures that foster interactions and allow for the cross-fertilization of ideas,
or the need to pay attention to temporal dynamics. Where we extend the literature is in proposing
a practice perspective that considers the interplay between relational and temporal aspects associ-
ated with innovation. Specifically, we theorize that combinations of relational and temporal prac-
tices represent interwoven complexity arrangements.2 These interwoven complexity arrangements
afford organizational actors multiple agentic orientations as innovation journeys unfold. We dis-
cuss these insights and the implications that emerge when one applies a complexity lens to the
challenge of sustaining innovation within organizations.
Innovation and Complexity
Given the importance of sustained innovation for the growth and vitality of firms, organizational
scholars have long been interested in understanding the processes by which innovation occurs.
Studies on innovation have yielded a number of insights. For instance, we know that innovation
implicates actors across multiple levels of the organization (Van de Ven 1986), who interact with
one another (Dougherty 1992; Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995; Brown & Eisenhardt 1997) across net-
works of practice communities (Hargadon & Sutton 1997).
These observations suggest that innovation processes are complex. Although there are multiple
meanings associated with the term ‘complexity’ (for reviews of complexity theories in organiza-
tion studies, see Anderson 1999; Burnes 2005; Maguire, McKelvey, Mirabeau & Öztas 2006),
most definitions attribute its emergence to combinations or interactions among heterogeneous ele-
ments; for instance, between molecules in physics (see Gell-Mann 1994), between proteins in
molecular biology (see Meyerguz, Kleinberg & Elber 2007), or between humans and artifacts in
social settings (see Dooley 1997; Latour 2005). Such relational complexity (see Boisot & Child
1999) can be understood by the use of a metaphor: the mixing of ingredients together into a stew.
The ingredients that make up the stew are far from homogeneous, diversity being essential to ongo-
ing adaptation (Axelrod & Cohen 1999). Nor is this stew the work of an omniscient master chef
(Stacey 2001). Instead, relational complexity emerges from ‘micro-level’ interactions that occur in
response to local conditions (Weick 1979; Drazin & Sandelands 1992; Tsoukas 2008). Each actor
is limited to discerning the local actions of a few disaggregated individuals, never glimpsing the
entire system (Stacey 2001). It is through such local interactions that innovation emerges as a
distributed process (Garud & Karnøe 2001; see also Loasby 2007, who discusses emergence
through the combination of a limited number of organizational elements).
Garud et al. 739
The term ‘complexity’ also is used to describe the inherently dynamic nature of nonlinear
processes (Maruyama 1963; Senge 1990). This temporal complexity is readily apparent in the
phase shifts (Chiles, Meyer & Hench 2004; Lichtenstein, Cater, Dooley & Gartner 2007; Plowman
et al. 2007) that can occur as a result of deviation-amplifying feedback loops (Maruyama 1963;
Masuch 1985). Other dynamics are also implicated in temporal complexity. For instance, what may
be considered a solution in real time (e.g., subsidies for corn-based ethanol fuel) may generate
unintended problems over time (e.g., worldwide corn shortages and rising food prices). These
diachronies are well illustrated by the ‘beer game’ in which temporal complexity invariably leads
to suboptimal inventory procurement decisions (Sterman 1989).
Innovation journeys are similarly complex. For instance, the notion of phase shifts can be seen
in the work of scholars who have noted the importance of momentum in the emergence of techno-
logical trajectories (Hughes 1969). Temporal asynchronies are evident in the need to develop co-
specialized assets around an innovative idea (Teece 1986; Ansari & Garud 2009) or in the evolution
of technological systems (Rosenberg 1982). It is for this reason that scholars have drawn our atten-
tion to the importance of establishing temporal co-ordination (Ancona & Chong 1996) and time
pacing (Brown & Eisenhardt 1997). Diachronies are less obvious, but nevertheless important. For
instance, in his theory of creative destruction, Schumpeter noted that:
A system – any system, economic or other – that at every given point of time fully utilizes its possibilities
to the best advantage may yet in the long run be inferior to a system that does so at no given point of time,
because the latter’s failure to do so may be a condition for the level or speed of long-run performance
(Schumpeter 2004 [1934]: 84).
Conversely, what had been considered trivial at a given time may become a solution to an unantici-
pated problem that may arise in the future. All these dynamics point to disequilibrium processes
(Lachmann 1976; Chiles, Bluedorn & Gupta 2007) driven by time delays, lags and differences in
rhythms (Garud & Nayyar 1994; Brown & Eisenhardt 1997). Equally important, for actors involved
in these processes, there are moments of serendipity and flashes of insights (Cunha 2004; Dew
2009). These eureka moments can neither be predicted nor willed a priori, but require prior engage-
ment (Usher 1954; Irvine & Martin 1984) – a paradox aptly captured by Pasteur when he observed
that ‘chance favors only the prepared mind’.
Complexity is also evident in the proliferation of diverse forms. Actors attempt to make sense
of such diversity by placing these forms into categories (Bowker & Star 1991). To the extent that
this diversity of forms cannot be placed easily into a parsimonious categorization scheme (Hannan,
Pólos & Carroll 2007), it presents itself as complexity to the actors involved, even evoking a cat-
egorical discount when organizations deviate from legitimated boundaries (Zuckerman 1999).
Building on Drazin and Sandelands (1992), we label this as manifest complexity. In the case of
innovation, such manifest complexity is evident in the range of products and services that emerge
from research, development and commercialization activities undertaken by organizations.
Examples of such complexity include the numerous Walkman versions that Sony generated
(Sanderson & Uzumeri 1995) and the sheer breadth of Procter & Gamble’s product lines.
Complexity studies have demonstrated that such a diversity of forms can be generated by apply-
ing set of underlying rules or routines (Axelrod & Cohen 1999). We use the term regulative com-
plexity to denote this meaning of complexity. Together a collection of such rules or routines
constitutes a ‘grammar’ that governs how elements may be combined and used. This grammar may
be understood as being more or less complex, and the rules themselves may be context-dependent
or subject to their own transformations in use (Cowan, Pines & Meltzer 1994).
In the context of innovation, such regulative complexity is evident in the simple rules that
form the basis for the emergence of a variety of products and services (Davis et al. 2009). For
740 Organization Studies 32(6)
instance, the many different versions of the Sony Walkman, targeted to satisfy the needs of
specific customer segments, emerged through the application of two guidelines: one was to
improve audio quality and the second was to improve portability (Sanderson & Uzumeri 1995).
Likewise, Procter & Gamble’s diverse product offerings emerged from the repeated application
of a limited number of core competencies.
Challenges in Sustaining Innovation
Clearly, innovation implicates different kinds of complexities – relational, temporal, manifest and
regulative. Organizations are often unable to deal with such complexities because they have been
designed to reduce or suppress them. For instance, organizations may adopt a ‘boxes within boxes’
approach (March & Simon 1958) that reduces interactions and locks people into ‘thought worlds’
(Dougherty 1992). Or, they may institute rules and routines to govern employee interactions and
insist on their rigid application (Kanigel 1997) while dampening emergent dialogical processes
(Tsoukas 2009). Some organizations continue to rely on short-term performance metrics instead of
embracing the longer time horizon required for incipient ideas to mature and yield value. Moreover,
they may not have an appropriate culture in place to benefit from their innovation experiences over
time (Tushman & O’Reilly 1996).
Innovation processes are dampened in these organizations for several reasons. Given the diffi-
culties in fostering relational processes, new ideas may not emerge at all (Dougherty 1992). Even
if new ideas were to emerge, they likely would be considered illegitimate, and therefore, selected
out (Dougherty & Heller 1994). A lack of appreciation of temporal asynchronies and diachronies
may result in intermediary innovation outcomes being perceived as useless mistakes or in products
being introduced into the market prematurely (Garud & Karnøe 2001). At an extreme, the diverse
outcomes that emerge from product development activities may manifest themselves as a ‘bramble
bush’ – a proliferation of technologies, products and patents, without much structure (Van de Ven
et al. 1999) – that employees find difficult to understand and, therefore, are unable to benefit from
in the pursuit of innovation.
By the same token, innovation processes also can impede current performance. For instance,
deviations that are an important part of innovation can easily disrupt firm operations (March 1991).
Moreover, the false-starts and dead-ends involved in the complex non-linear innovation journeys
from idea conception to commercialization can reduce the efficiency of existing operations given
that valuable resources are required (Van de Ven et al. 1999). Even those innovations that survive
organizational selection pressures may appear unrelated, thereby distracting the attention of top
management, employees and analysts (Ocasio 1997; Zuckerman 1999; Barnett 2008).
Scholars have proposed several approaches to address the tensions that arise between innovation
(that implicates complexity) and current performance (that in many organizations is accomplished by
structures that reduce complexity). One approach is to attend sequentially to innovation (exploration
in March’s (1991) terms) and performance (exploitation in March’s terms), separating them over time
(Cyert & March 1963). This approach offers a punctuated equilibrium solution, with the organization
undertaking occasional reorientations as it switches between exploration and exploitation (Miller &
Friesen 1982; Tushman & Romanelli 1985). Another solution is to carry out exploration and exploita-
tion simultaneously, but in separate organizational units (or even outside the organization), with
executives at higher levels of the hierarchy resolving the inevitable tensions of managing and inte-
grating these units (Tushman & Nadler 1978; Tushman & O’Reilly 1996; Benner & Tushman 2003),
a top-down approach that is consistent with Burgelman’s (1983) notion of ‘induced’ innovation.
These approaches may work to the extent that innovations and resultant adaptations occur infre-
quently. They start breaking down, however, in dynamic environments within which organizations
Garud et al. 741
need to innovate continually to survive. For example, when organizations must reorient themselves
frequently, a solution based on sequential attention to goals generates significant disruptions and
imposes a heavy cost. Likewise, resolving tensions between exploration and exploitation at a higher
level of hierarchy is difficult due to bounded rationality and limits to executive attention, and even-
tually exacts a price in terms of lost time and opportunities. Moreover, as environmental changes
spawn new stakeholders and new needs, the division of labor and its re-integration through routines
and schedules may result in a mismatch between the organization and its ever-changing environ-
ment (cf. Henderson & Clark 1990). In fact, organizations may not even recognize the need for
change (Tripsas 1997). For all these reasons, many of the prescribed approaches may function effec-
tively during times of relative stability, but fail during times of rapid environmental changes.
Recent work on complexity, however, offers clues to organizational practices that may be capa-
ble of dealing with and even benefiting from complexity (Tsoukas 2008), thereby reconciling inno-
vation with current performance. Some scholars have pointed out the utility of infusing
organizational processes with energy and resources to reach a critical threshold above which cas-
cading changes emerge (see Lichtenstein et al. 2007). Others underscore the importance of foster-
ing interactions among heterogeneous actors that, when shaped by endogenous selection processes,
will result in the emergence of novelty (Drazin & Sandelands 1992; Axelrod & Cohen 1999).
Going beyond such a ‘complex adaptive systems’ approach (Kauffman 1995) and building upon
the work of Elias (1978), Stacey (2001) has emphasized the relational processes by which actors
experience and continually respond to complexity through improvisation and spontaneous local
interactions. More recently, scholars have taken this argument even further by incorporating tem-
poral agency. For instance, Tsoukas and his colleagues describe how dialogical processes and nar-
ratives enable the emergence of different temporal and relational agentic orientations as
organizational processes unfold (Tsoukas & Hatch 2001; Tsoukas 2009).
In this progression over the years, we see a shift from an objective systems view of complexity to
an intersubjective process view, and then to an unfolding practice view. The latter connects with work
by scholars outside the domain of complexity studies. For instance, Emirbayer and Mische (1998),
building upon Mead (1932), offered what they labeled as the ‘chordal triad of agency’ to suggest ele-
ments of agency that are oriented to the past, the future and the present. In a similar vein, Ricoeur
(1984) observed that any moment in the present is shaped by anticipations of the future and memories
of the past, and it is through such temporal orientations that agency emerges. Indeed Clark (1990: 147)
argued that ‘orientations to the past/present/future have been neglected in organization studies’, and
that these orientations ‘contain organizationally specific predispositions’.
In this regard, what is most intriguing is the idea that different organizational practices may sup-
port or thwart specific agentic possibilities by generating particular ‘packages’ of orientations
towards the past, the present and the future. Equally intriguing is the possibility that actors can
potentially engage in a variety of activities and events simultaneously, each with its own temporal
rhythm (what Bluedorn 2002 calls ‘polychronicity’). Such a nuanced approach would take seri-
ously kairos – based on subjective and qualitative notions of time (Whipp 1994; Hassard 1996;
Mosakowski & Earley 2000), without ignoring the simultaneous existence of chronos – based on
objective and Newtonian approaches to temporality (Hassard 1996; Orlikowski & Yates 2002),
thereby allowing exploration and exploitation to unfold simultaneously.
This is what we explore in this paper by studying organizational practices at 3M Corporation,
an organization that had sustained itself for over a hundred years through innovation. Our study
reveals that 3M had organized itself such that innovation and performance, exploration and
exploitation, kairos and chronos, were part and parcel of everyday work. Specifically, the com-
pany had in place interwoven complexity arrangements that afforded employees multiple agentic
orientations simultaneously. Asynchronies and diachronies inherent in innovation were addressed
740 Organization Studies 32(6)
instance, the many different versions of the Sony Walkman, targeted to satisfy the needs of
specific customer segments, emerged through the application of two guidelines: one was to
improve audio quality and the second was to improve portability (Sanderson & Uzumeri 1995).
Likewise, Procter & Gamble’s diverse product offerings emerged from the repeated application
of a limited number of core competencies.
Challenges in Sustaining Innovation
Clearly, innovation implicates different kinds of complexities – relational, temporal, manifest and
regulative. Organizations are often unable to deal with such complexities because they have been
designed to reduce or suppress them. For instance, organizations may adopt a ‘boxes within boxes’
approach (March & Simon 1958) that reduces interactions and locks people into ‘thought worlds’
(Dougherty 1992). Or, they may institute rules and routines to govern employee interactions and
insist on their rigid application (Kanigel 1997) while dampening emergent dialogical processes
(Tsoukas 2009). Some organizations continue to rely on short-term performance metrics instead of
embracing the longer time horizon required for incipient ideas to mature and yield value. Moreover,
they may not have an appropriate culture in place to benefit from their innovation experiences over
time (Tushman & O’Reilly 1996).
Innovation processes are dampened in these organizations for several reasons. Given the diffi-
culties in fostering relational processes, new ideas may not emerge at all (Dougherty 1992). Even
if new ideas were to emerge, they likely would be considered illegitimate, and therefore, selected
out (Dougherty & Heller 1994). A lack of appreciation of temporal asynchronies and diachronies
may result in intermediary innovation outcomes being perceived as useless mistakes or in products
being introduced into the market prematurely (Garud & Karnøe 2001). At an extreme, the diverse
outcomes that emerge from product development activities may manifest themselves as a ‘bramble
bush’ – a proliferation of technologies, products and patents, without much structure (Van de Ven
et al. 1999) – that employees find difficult to understand and, therefore, are unable to benefit from
in the pursuit of innovation.
By the same token, innovation processes also can impede current performance. For instance,
deviations that are an important part of innovation can easily disrupt firm operations (March 1991).
Moreover, the false-starts and dead-ends involved in the complex non-linear innovation journeys
from idea conception to commercialization can reduce the efficiency of existing operations given
that valuable resources are required (Van de Ven et al. 1999). Even those innovations that survive
organizational selection pressures may appear unrelated, thereby distracting the attention of top
management, employees and analysts (Ocasio 1997; Zuckerman 1999; Barnett 2008).
Scholars have proposed several approaches to address the tensions that arise between innovation
(that implicates complexity) and current performance (that in many organizations is accomplished by
structures that reduce complexity). One approach is to attend sequentially to innovation (exploration
in March’s (1991) terms) and performance (exploitation in March’s terms), separating them over time
(Cyert & March 1963). This approach offers a punctuated equilibrium solution, with the organization
undertaking occasional reorientations as it switches between exploration and exploitation (Miller &
Friesen 1982; Tushman & Romanelli 1985). Another solution is to carry out exploration and exploita-
tion simultaneously, but in separate organizational units (or even outside the organization), with
executives at higher levels of the hierarchy resolving the inevitable tensions of managing and inte-
grating these units (Tushman & Nadler 1978; Tushman & O’Reilly 1996; Benner & Tushman 2003),
a top-down approach that is consistent with Burgelman’s (1983) notion of ‘induced’ innovation.
These approaches may work to the extent that innovations and resultant adaptations occur infre-
quently. They start breaking down, however, in dynamic environments within which organizations
Garud et al. 741
need to innovate continually to survive. For example, when organizations must reorient themselves
frequently, a solution based on sequential attention to goals generates significant disruptions and
imposes a heavy cost. Likewise, resolving tensions between exploration and exploitation at a higher
level of hierarchy is difficult due to bounded rationality and limits to executive attention, and even-
tually exacts a price in terms of lost time and opportunities. Moreover, as environmental changes
spawn new stakeholders and new needs, the division of labor and its re-integration through routines
and schedules may result in a mismatch between the organization and its ever-changing environ-
ment (cf. Henderson & Clark 1990). In fact, organizations may not even recognize the need for
change (Tripsas 1997). For all these reasons, many of the prescribed approaches may function effec-
tively during times of relative stability, but fail during times of rapid environmental changes.
Recent work on complexity, however, offers clues to organizational practices that may be capa-
ble of dealing with and even benefiting from complexity (Tsoukas 2008), thereby reconciling inno-
vation with current performance. Some scholars have pointed out the utility of infusing
organizational processes with energy and resources to reach a critical threshold above which cas-
cading changes emerge (see Lichtenstein et al. 2007). Others underscore the importance of foster-
ing interactions among heterogeneous actors that, when shaped by endogenous selection processes,
will result in the emergence of novelty (Drazin & Sandelands 1992; Axelrod & Cohen 1999).
Going beyond such a ‘complex adaptive systems’ approach (Kauffman 1995) and building upon
the work of Elias (1978), Stacey (2001) has emphasized the relational processes by which actors
experience and continually respond to complexity through improvisation and spontaneous local
interactions. More recently, scholars have taken this argument even further by incorporating tem-
poral agency. For instance, Tsoukas and his colleagues describe how dialogical processes and nar-
ratives enable the emergence of different temporal and relational agentic orientations as
organizational processes unfold (Tsoukas & Hatch 2001; Tsoukas 2009).
In this progression over the years, we see a shift from an objective systems view of complexity to
an intersubjective process view, and then to an unfolding practice view. The latter connects with work
by scholars outside the domain of complexity studies. For instance, Emirbayer and Mische (1998),
building upon Mead (1932), offered what they labeled as the ‘chordal triad of agency’ to suggest ele-
ments of agency that are oriented to the past, the future and the present. In a similar vein, Ricoeur
(1984) observed that any moment in the present is shaped by anticipations of the future and memories
of the past, and it is through such temporal orientations that agency emerges. Indeed Clark (1990: 147)
argued that ‘orientations to the past/present/future have been neglected in organization studies’, and
that these orientations ‘contain organizationally specific predispositions’.
In this regard, what is most intriguing is the idea that different organizational practices may sup-
port or thwart specific agentic possibilities by generating particular ‘packages’ of orientations
towards the past, the present and the future. Equally intriguing is the possibility that actors can
potentially engage in a variety of activities and events simultaneously, each with its own temporal
rhythm (what Bluedorn 2002 calls ‘polychronicity’). Such a nuanced approach would take seri-
ously kairos – based on subjective and qualitative notions of time (Whipp 1994; Hassard 1996;
Mosakowski & Earley 2000), without ignoring the simultaneous existence of chronos – based on
objective and Newtonian approaches to temporality (Hassard 1996; Orlikowski & Yates 2002),
thereby allowing exploration and exploitation to unfold simultaneously.
This is what we explore in this paper by studying organizational practices at 3M Corporation,
an organization that had sustained itself for over a hundred years through innovation. Our study
reveals that 3M had organized itself such that innovation and performance, exploration and
exploitation, kairos and chronos, were part and parcel of everyday work. Specifically, the com-
pany had in place interwoven complexity arrangements that afforded employees multiple agentic
orientations simultaneously. Asynchronies and diachronies inherent in innovation were addressed
742 Organization Studies 32(6)
by the creation of a generative organizational memory that allowed the company to cultivate ideas
as they emerged and use them when the time was right. Indeed, interconnecting platforms of
knowledge made it possible for people to go ‘back to the future’, allowing 3M to harness – rather
than limit – the complexity that innovation requires and generates.
Research Setting and Methods
3M was founded in 1902 by five entrepreneurs, each expecting to get rich mining corundum, a
mineral used to make high-quality grinding wheels (3M 2002). However, their mine turned out to
produce anorthosite, a relatively soft mineral not suitable for such purposes. Desperate, but reluc-
tant to give up, the founders hit upon the idea of using the low-grade ore to make sandpaper and,
thus, the company survived.
This pattern – a ‘mistake’ which galvanizes actions that eventually leads to innovation – appears
to have played out repeatedly at 3M; sandpaper was merely the first of many such ‘accidental’
innovations. Our research revealed narratives of many innovations, ranging from early successes
such as masking tape and reflective traffic signs to later breakthroughs in fiberoptics and medical
creams. As we absorbed the details in these narratives, we noticed patterns emerging even though
the specific path through which each innovation unfolded was different (see Dooley & Van de Ven
1999). Indeed, as Sandy Cobb, a 3M scientist whom we interviewed observed, 3M had grown in a
‘fractal manner’, expanding little by little from a core set of technology assets.
We decided to focus our attention on the longitudinal processes through which one of 3M’s
technology platforms developed and subsequently spawned two innovations. Given our interest in
understanding the innovation processes involved in their emergence, our study followed a narra-
tive approach (Bruner 1986; Weick 1995; Czarniawska 1998; Pentland 1999). Such an approach
not only provides the contextual details of the unfolding processes, but, in addition, the underlying
forces driving the outcomes (see Tsoukas 1989, Pettigrew 1990 and Van de Ven & Poole 1995 for
details on elements of the process approach we have adopted here). In adopting such an approach,
our objective is to spawn a process of narrative generalization. Specifically, readers who are
attracted to the details of a narrative can abstract inferences that are relevant to their specific con-
texts through a process of abduction (Peirce 1934; see Bartel & Garud 2003; Garud, Dunbar &
Bartel 2010 for further details). Indeed, narratives serve as boundary objects (Star & Griesemer
1989) that modulate the complexity with which readers may abstract insights and apply the find-
ings to their own contexts (Tsoukas & Hatch 2001; Bartel & Garud 2003).
Data Collection
One of the authors has had a longstanding relationship with 3M. At the time this project began in
1998, he already had spent more than five years researching other innovation journeys at the com-
pany. It was because of this prior relationship that 3M agreed to a study on how it had sustained
innovation for nearly a century. The project began with a kick-off meeting at which Dr. William
Coyne, 3M’s senior vice president of research and development (SVP of R&D), and representa-
tives from the knowledge management and legal departments, the microreplication technology
center and the multimedia technology center were present. By the end of the meeting, we had
reached agreement on the scope of the research project and the high level of site access that would
be provided. Given 3M’s multitude of technology platforms, products and patents, everyone agreed
that this study should focus in detail on a few exemplars. Specifically, we decided to study the
microreplication (MR) technology platform, and two innovations it had spawned – brightness
enhancement films (BEF) and Trizact abrasives (see Figure 1).
Garud et al. 743
MICROREPLICATION: ONE LITTLE TECHNOLOGY AND HOW IT GREW
1964 1970 1980 1990 2000
Lighted
Guidance
Tube
1983
Optics Technology
Center (OTC)
Formed
1998
OTC Renamed
Microreplication Technology
Center (MTC)
1964
Overhead
Projector
Lens
Beginning with a Fresnel
lens for overhead projectors,
microreplication has spawned
a multi-hundred million -dollar
family of products that range
from structured abrasives to
mechanical fasteners and from
retroreflectives heeting for
highway signs to brightness
enhancement film for laptop
computer displays.
0
400
800
1200
1964
1976
1988
1998
SALES (in $ millions)
Traffic Radial Solar Press-On Kaleidoscope High Visibility
Signals Concentrator Lens Film Traffic Lens System
Prism Cube Corner Wide Lane Fluorescent
ReflectivityDiamond GradeAngle Markers DGS
Sheeting DGSSigns Dynamic
Retroreflection
Scotchlite Internally Light
DGS Lit Signs Pole
LENSES
FLAT PANEL
DISPLAYS
Lens
Film
Total
Internal
Reflection
Optical
Lighting
Film
ILLUMINATION
Brightness
Enhancement
Film I and II
TRANSPOR-
TATION
SAFETY
ABRASIVES
Right
Angle
Film
FASTENERS
ADHESIVES
TRIBOLOGY
BIO
APPLICAT IONS
Stem Web
Tape
ControlTac
Plus
Comply
Adhesives
Drag Reduction
Film
PreciseMousing
Surface
Isoporous
Membranes
MicroChannel
Cooling
Fluid Transport
Film
Fluidics
CS 600
Fasteners
CS 200
Fasteners
Shaped
Particles
Trizact
Abrasives
Glass
Polishing
Semiconductor
Wafer
Planarization
Griplets
Plasma Display
Panel
Barrier Ribs
Filtration Media
FILTRATION
Mating Surface
Fasteners
Light
Pipe
Light
Fibre
FASTENERS
FREE
GLARE
OVERHEAD
PROJECTOR
LENS
Figure 1. Innovations from the Microreplication Technology Platform Over Time. Source: 3M Corporation
742 Organization Studies 32(6)
by the creation of a generative organizational memory that allowed the company to cultivate ideas
as they emerged and use them when the time was right. Indeed, interconnecting platforms of
knowledge made it possible for people to go ‘back to the future’, allowing 3M to harness – rather
than limit – the complexity that innovation requires and generates.
Research Setting and Methods
3M was founded in 1902 by five entrepreneurs, each expecting to get rich mining corundum, a
mineral used to make high-quality grinding wheels (3M 2002). However, their mine turned out to
produce anorthosite, a relatively soft mineral not suitable for such purposes. Desperate, but reluc-
tant to give up, the founders hit upon the idea of using the low-grade ore to make sandpaper and,
thus, the company survived.
This pattern – a ‘mistake’ which galvanizes actions that eventually leads to innovation – appears
to have played out repeatedly at 3M; sandpaper was merely the first of many such ‘accidental’
innovations. Our research revealed narratives of many innovations, ranging from early successes
such as masking tape and reflective traffic signs to later breakthroughs in fiberoptics and medical
creams. As we absorbed the details in these narratives, we noticed patterns emerging even though
the specific path through which each innovation unfolded was different (see Dooley & Van de Ven
1999). Indeed, as Sandy Cobb, a 3M scientist whom we interviewed observed, 3M had grown in a
‘fractal manner’, expanding little by little from a core set of technology assets.
We decided to focus our attention on the longitudinal processes through which one of 3M’s
technology platforms developed and subsequently spawned two innovations. Given our interest in
understanding the innovation processes involved in their emergence, our study followed a narra-
tive approach (Bruner 1986; Weick 1995; Czarniawska 1998; Pentland 1999). Such an approach
not only provides the contextual details of the unfolding processes, but, in addition, the underlying
forces driving the outcomes (see Tsoukas 1989, Pettigrew 1990 and Van de Ven & Poole 1995 for
details on elements of the process approach we have adopted here). In adopting such an approach,
our objective is to spawn a process of narrative generalization. Specifically, readers who are
attracted to the details of a narrative can abstract inferences that are relevant to their specific con-
texts through a process of abduction (Peirce 1934; see Bartel & Garud 2003; Garud, Dunbar &
Bartel 2010 for further details). Indeed, narratives serve as boundary objects (Star & Griesemer
1989) that modulate the complexity with which readers may abstract insights and apply the find-
ings to their own contexts (Tsoukas & Hatch 2001; Bartel & Garud 2003).
Data Collection
One of the authors has had a longstanding relationship with 3M. At the time this project began in
1998, he already had spent more than five years researching other innovation journeys at the com-
pany. It was because of this prior relationship that 3M agreed to a study on how it had sustained
innovation for nearly a century. The project began with a kick-off meeting at which Dr. William
Coyne, 3M’s senior vice president of research and development (SVP of R&D), and representa-
tives from the knowledge management and legal departments, the microreplication technology
center and the multimedia technology center were present. By the end of the meeting, we had
reached agreement on the scope of the research project and the high level of site access that would
be provided. Given 3M’s multitude of technology platforms, products and patents, everyone agreed
that this study should focus in detail on a few exemplars. Specifically, we decided to study the
microreplication (MR) technology platform, and two innovations it had spawned – brightness
enhancement films (BEF) and Trizact abrasives (see Figure 1).
Garud et al. 743
MICROREPLICATION: ONE LITTLE TECHNOLOGY AND HOW IT GREW
1964 1970 1980 1990 2000
Lighted
Guidance
Tube
1983
Optics Technology
Center (OTC)
Formed
1998
OTC Renamed
Microreplication Technology
Center (MTC)
1964
Overhead
Projector
Lens
Beginning with a Fresnel
lens for overhead projectors,
microreplication has spawned
a multi-hundred million -dollar
family of products that range
from structured abrasives to
mechanical fasteners and from
retroreflectives heeting for
highway signs to brightness
enhancement film for laptop
computer displays.
0
400
800
1200
1964
1976
1988
1998
SALES (in $ millions)
Traffic Radial Solar Press-On Kaleidoscope High Visibility
Signals Concentrator Lens Film Traffic Lens System
Prism Cube Corner Wide Lane Fluorescent
ReflectivityDiamond GradeAngle Markers DGS
Sheeting DGSSigns Dynamic
Retroreflection
Scotchlite Internally Light
DGS Lit Signs Pole
LENSES
FLAT PANEL
DISPLAYS
Lens
Film
Total
Internal
Reflection
Optical
Lighting
Film
ILLUMINATION
Brightness
Enhancement
Film I and II
TRANSPOR-
TATION
SAFETY
ABRASIVES
Right
Angle
Film
FASTENERS
ADHESIVES
TRIBOLOGY
BIO
APPLICAT IONS
Stem Web
Tape
ControlTac
Plus
Comply
Adhesives
Drag Reduction
Film
PreciseMousing
Surface
Isoporous
Membranes
MicroChannel
Cooling
Fluid Transport
Film
Fluidics
CS 600
Fasteners
CS 200
Fasteners
Shaped
Particles
Trizact
Abrasives
Glass
Polishing
Semiconductor
Wafer
Planarization
Griplets
Plasma Display
Panel
Barrier Ribs
Filtration Media
FILTRATION
Mating Surface
Fasteners
Light
Pipe
Light
Fibre
FASTENERS
FREE
GLARE
OVERHEAD
PROJECTOR
LENS
Figure 1. Innovations from the Microreplication Technology Platform Over Time. Source: 3M Corporation
744 Organization Studies 32(6)
Our analysis drew on multiple data sources. Immediately following our kick-off meeting, we
were given a variety of private archival materials, including technical documents, marketing bro-
chures, books chronicling 3M’s history, company compilations of innovation narratives, details of
3M’s technology platforms, in-house magazines, interviews of 3M employees conducted by oth-
ers, and internal promotional videos. We also developed our own database of public archival mate-
rials, including relevant articles and interviews published in the popular business press, case studies
and reports written by academics and financial analysts, and videos about 3M (e.g., In Search of
Excellence).
Although these materials offered rich third-person perspectives on innovation practices at 3M,
they stopped short of offering an insider’s perspective on how 3M employees both experienced and
enacted these practices. To this end, we engaged in a series of semi-structured interviews with 3M
employees intimately involved in the development of the MR platform, BEF and Trizact. For
instance, given his corporate role, we asked the SVP of R&D questions about innovation practices
across 3M Corporation as a whole. By comparison, we asked scientists and technology managers
to describe their roles and experiences during the development of the MR platform and the two
specific innovation journeys related to it. In all, we conducted interviews with 18 people represent-
ing the corporation (such as the SVP of R&D), the MR platform (such as the director of the MR
technology center), and the two innovation journeys that we studied (such as the division heads,
project leaders and scientists involved), as well as employees who themselves had been studying
the process of innovation at 3M (such as those from 3M’s knowledge management group). Each of
these interviews lasted for about 1 hour, and most interviews were taped and transcribed. On those
occasions when we were not able to record our conversations, we took copious notes, which we
used as the basis for our analysis.
Throughout the data collection process, we were guided by a ‘purposive sampling’ strategy
(Lincoln & Guba 1985). Given the emergent nature of our research design, we also engaged in a
variety of informal data collection activities. For example, we maintained regular telephone and
email contact with our informants. We also visited 3M multiple times over a period of 12 months.
During these visits, we observed team meetings, reconnected with our informants and other key
project stakeholders, and took advantage of chance encounters. Both during and after these interac-
tions, we took detailed notes, recording the particular content discussed as well as our own thoughts
and insights. We continued data collection until new observations no longer offered additional
information (Lincoln & Guba 1985).
Data Analysis
To make sense of these rich data, our analysis unfolded in stages. First, we asked stakeholders to
‘member check’ (Lincoln & Guba 1985) our interview transcripts and notes to ensure that we had
faithfully captured what they said. During this initial step, we did not share what we had heard from
one person with the others (what Locke & Velamuri 2009 refer to as ‘restricted transparency’).
Next, triangulating across all our data sources – private and public archival documents, stakeholder
interviews and informal observations – we generated a chronology of events as a way of under-
standing the processes by which the two innovations (BEF and Trizact) had emerged. In places
where there were ambiguities with respect to dates or gaps in our understanding of the data, we
requested and were readily supplied with supplementary information.
Satisfied with our broad understanding of the development of the MR platform and the two
innovation journeys, we finished coding the data for thematic content (Miles & Huberman 1994).
We did this by abstracting raw quotations and text segments from the interviews and other
Garud et al. 745
materials, and then generating a Microsoft Access database of quotations indexed by person and
by theme (see Table 1 for illustrative quotes from 3M employees offering their perspectives on
innovation, based on their experiences). Of note, the accounts offered to us by 3M employees
included not only successes and achievements, but also missteps and aborted efforts during the
course of the two journeys. In other words, we could not detect any overt attempts to mask the
failed attempts and false-starts endemic to innovation journeys. This suggests that these data
possess strong face validity.
Our reading of the data was accompanied by ‘a head full of theories’ (Weick 2007: 16).
Specifically, our analysis was shaped by the fact that 3M employees themselves thought of inno-
vation processes as being complex. For instance, Dr. Coyne (1996), in his talk during the United
Kingdom innovation lecture series, noted that:
Innovation at 3M is anything but orderly. It is sensible, in that our efforts are all directed at reaching our
goals, but the organization ... and the process ... and sometimes the people can be chaotic. We are managing
in chaos, and this is the right way to manage if you want innovation.
Sandy Cobb, a scientist, also spoke about fractal growth at 3M. We also were influenced by
work on complexity and interactive emergence (Sims 1991) which showed how art can emerge
through the application of simple rules and through the interactions of intermediary outcomes
with humans.
During this process of iterating between the data, existing theories and our own emergent
understandings, we developed a series of lists, sketches, diagrams and short presentations
(Weick 1995), which we shared with several stakeholders from 3M. An overall gestalt emerged
from this dialogical process (Tsoukas 2009), one that Langley (1999: 691) refers to as ‘an
Table 1. 3M Employees’ Perspectives on Innovation
‘Our vision is that we would like to be the most innovative enterprise in the world….To be recognized by
our customers as the most innovative enterprise….We think that it is very important for an organization
to have foresight and the way we describe foresight is to understand the future before it gets here….Then,
we have to see how we can connect with that future. These are critical first steps in creating a tradition of
innovation.’ (Coyne)
‘My definition of innovation is taking what a customer may need or not even perceive that they need and
identifying it with a technology to answer that need.’ (Guehler)
‘Innovation is probably the sum total and integration of your experiences. And it’s also keeping your eyes
open to the world to see where and how you can take what you’ve learned in all of the different areas that
you’ve been in and apply it to a specific thing, an idea. But then doing it, selling other people on the idea,
gathering them in so that they become part of and supportive of what you’re doing.’ (Cobb)
‘I think innovation is the ability to take the product from concept to market place. So my definition is taking
the concept, putting a concept together, building in the capability to manufacture, to understand, and then
delivering it to a customer.’ (Jones)
‘I believe there are moments of not necessarily a flash of lightning, but that all of a sudden, something
becomes clear to you that wasn’t clear before. You wait for it to happen and, for some people, it happens
more frequently, for other people it never happens.’ (Hoopman)
‘Innovation is a messy process. It is being able to allow people time on their own and time to make
mistakes and pursue their own dreams. I think it’s a matter of having creative people in the company and
letting them work on things that they think will be important for the future.’ (Dippon)
744 Organization Studies 32(6)
Our analysis drew on multiple data sources. Immediately following our kick-off meeting, we
were given a variety of private archival materials, including technical documents, marketing bro-
chures, books chronicling 3M’s history, company compilations of innovation narratives, details of
3M’s technology platforms, in-house magazines, interviews of 3M employees conducted by oth-
ers, and internal promotional videos. We also developed our own database of public archival mate-
rials, including relevant articles and interviews published in the popular business press, case studies
and reports written by academics and financial analysts, and videos about 3M (e.g., In Search of
Excellence).
Although these materials offered rich third-person perspectives on innovation practices at 3M,
they stopped short of offering an insider’s perspective on how 3M employees both experienced and
enacted these practices. To this end, we engaged in a series of semi-structured interviews with 3M
employees intimately involved in the development of the MR platform, BEF and Trizact. For
instance, given his corporate role, we asked the SVP of R&D questions about innovation practices
across 3M Corporation as a whole. By comparison, we asked scientists and technology managers
to describe their roles and experiences during the development of the MR platform and the two
specific innovation journeys related to it. In all, we conducted interviews with 18 people represent-
ing the corporation (such as the SVP of R&D), the MR platform (such as the director of the MR
technology center), and the two innovation journeys that we studied (such as the division heads,
project leaders and scientists involved), as well as employees who themselves had been studying
the process of innovation at 3M (such as those from 3M’s knowledge management group). Each of
these interviews lasted for about 1 hour, and most interviews were taped and transcribed. On those
occasions when we were not able to record our conversations, we took copious notes, which we
used as the basis for our analysis.
Throughout the data collection process, we were guided by a ‘purposive sampling’ strategy
(Lincoln & Guba 1985). Given the emergent nature of our research design, we also engaged in a
variety of informal data collection activities. For example, we maintained regular telephone and
email contact with our informants. We also visited 3M multiple times over a period of 12 months.
During these visits, we observed team meetings, reconnected with our informants and other key
project stakeholders, and took advantage of chance encounters. Both during and after these interac-
tions, we took detailed notes, recording the particular content discussed as well as our own thoughts
and insights. We continued data collection until new observations no longer offered additional
information (Lincoln & Guba 1985).
Data Analysis
To make sense of these rich data, our analysis unfolded in stages. First, we asked stakeholders to
‘member check’ (Lincoln & Guba 1985) our interview transcripts and notes to ensure that we had
faithfully captured what they said. During this initial step, we did not share what we had heard from
one person with the others (what Locke & Velamuri 2009 refer to as ‘restricted transparency’).
Next, triangulating across all our data sources – private and public archival documents, stakeholder
interviews and informal observations – we generated a chronology of events as a way of under-
standing the processes by which the two innovations (BEF and Trizact) had emerged. In places
where there were ambiguities with respect to dates or gaps in our understanding of the data, we
requested and were readily supplied with supplementary information.
Satisfied with our broad understanding of the development of the MR platform and the two
innovation journeys, we finished coding the data for thematic content (Miles & Huberman 1994).
We did this by abstracting raw quotations and text segments from the interviews and other
Garud et al. 745
materials, and then generating a Microsoft Access database of quotations indexed by person and
by theme (see Table 1 for illustrative quotes from 3M employees offering their perspectives on
innovation, based on their experiences). Of note, the accounts offered to us by 3M employees
included not only successes and achievements, but also missteps and aborted efforts during the
course of the two journeys. In other words, we could not detect any overt attempts to mask the
failed attempts and false-starts endemic to innovation journeys. This suggests that these data
possess strong face validity.
Our reading of the data was accompanied by ‘a head full of theories’ (Weick 2007: 16).
Specifically, our analysis was shaped by the fact that 3M employees themselves thought of inno-
vation processes as being complex. For instance, Dr. Coyne (1996), in his talk during the United
Kingdom innovation lecture series, noted that:
Innovation at 3M is anything but orderly. It is sensible, in that our efforts are all directed at reaching our
goals, but the organization ... and the process ... and sometimes the people can be chaotic. We are managing
in chaos, and this is the right way to manage if you want innovation.
Sandy Cobb, a scientist, also spoke about fractal growth at 3M. We also were influenced by
work on complexity and interactive emergence (Sims 1991) which showed how art can emerge
through the application of simple rules and through the interactions of intermediary outcomes
with humans.
During this process of iterating between the data, existing theories and our own emergent
understandings, we developed a series of lists, sketches, diagrams and short presentations
(Weick 1995), which we shared with several stakeholders from 3M. An overall gestalt emerged
from this dialogical process (Tsoukas 2009), one that Langley (1999: 691) refers to as ‘an
Table 1. 3M Employees’ Perspectives on Innovation
‘Our vision is that we would like to be the most innovative enterprise in the world….To be recognized by
our customers as the most innovative enterprise….We think that it is very important for an organization
to have foresight and the way we describe foresight is to understand the future before it gets here….Then,
we have to see how we can connect with that future. These are critical first steps in creating a tradition of
innovation.’ (Coyne)
‘My definition of innovation is taking what a customer may need or not even perceive that they need and
identifying it with a technology to answer that need.’ (Guehler)
‘Innovation is probably the sum total and integration of your experiences. And it’s also keeping your eyes
open to the world to see where and how you can take what you’ve learned in all of the different areas that
you’ve been in and apply it to a specific thing, an idea. But then doing it, selling other people on the idea,
gathering them in so that they become part of and supportive of what you’re doing.’ (Cobb)
‘I think innovation is the ability to take the product from concept to market place. So my definition is taking
the concept, putting a concept together, building in the capability to manufacture, to understand, and then
delivering it to a customer.’ (Jones)
‘I believe there are moments of not necessarily a flash of lightning, but that all of a sudden, something
becomes clear to you that wasn’t clear before. You wait for it to happen and, for some people, it happens
more frequently, for other people it never happens.’ (Hoopman)
‘Innovation is a messy process. It is being able to allow people time on their own and time to make
mistakes and pursue their own dreams. I think it’s a matter of having creative people in the company and
letting them work on things that they think will be important for the future.’ (Dippon)
746 Organization Studies 32(6)
uncodifiable creative leap’. The process of zigzagging across this ‘hodgepodge of events,
actions and talks’ (Czarniawska 2008: 33) culminated in the creation of a ‘narrative account’
(Langley 1999) summarizing the practices at 3M, and tracing the history of the MR platform
and the emergence of BEF and Trizact. As with the raw interviews and our provisional theoriza-
tions, we again gave 3M an opportunity to review our conclusions. Although 3M requested that
we remove a few statements that were sensitive and confidential, these elisions proved immate-
rial to our analysis.
This paper itself was inspired by recent events at 3M. 3M’s approach to innovation changed
when James McNerney was hired as the CEO in 2000, a time when the company’s revenues and
profits showed signs of stagnation. During his tenure between 2000 and 2004, McNerney sought
to improve operational efficiency by establishing central control, introducing Six Sigma3 initia-
tives and standard routines, and placing an emphasis on projects with the potential to yield quick
results. Even though 3M’s profits improved, these changes appear to have had an adverse impact
on 3M’s culture of innovation. For instance, 3M’s rank among the most innovative companies in
corporate America began to slip during this time (Buderi 2000; Technology Review 2004; Boston
Consulting Group 2009). Under its current CEO George Buckley, however, 3M appears to be
going back to its earlier approach to innovation. In support of his initiatives after taking over from
McNerney, Buckley noted:
Invention is, by its very nature, a disorderly process. You can’t put a Six Sigma process into that area and
say, ‘Well, I’m getting behind on invention, so I’m going to schedule myself for three good ideas on
Wednesday and two on Friday.’ That’s not how creativity works. (Hindo 2007)
Indeed, recent results indicate that 3M’s renewed emphasis on innovation under Buckley has been
paying off both in terms of resilient performance during recessionary times and a slew of new
product announcements, such as 3D optical films for mobile devices, abrasives that self-sharpen
for long life, and low-cost respirator masks for use in developing countries (Daley 2009; Black
2010; Mattioli & Maher 2010).
Given these developments, we decided to re-examine innovation practices at 3M prior to
the introduction of Six Sigma initiatives. Three researchers (including one who had been involved
in the collection and analysis of the original data collected in 1998 and 1999) reviewed the
data and analysis in light of recent advances in our knowledge of complexity. We sought a
more nuanced understanding of the innovation practices at 3M to identify the generative
nature of underlying rules and the products that emerged through nonlinear processes. We also
sought to identify how temporal and relational dynamics were implicated in the process. Once
again, we followed the iterative steps described earlier to generate the insights that we present
in this paper.
Innovation Practices and Processes at 3M
What struck us about 3M were the thousands of different products that the company had gener-
ated over its history. Such a proliferation of products, often daunting and confusing to outsiders,
can readily be explained from a complex adaptive systems perspective. Specifically, from this
perspective, heterogeneity of actors and a few simple rules can give rise to system emergence
and a diversity of outcomes (Simon 1962; Kauffman 1995; Axelrod & Cohen 1999). This held
true for 3M, where interactions among a limited number of technology platforms (each a cluster
of intellectual assets) had spawned a diverse array of products. In addition, the application of a
Garud et al. 747
few simple rules to shape interactions within the organization had contributed to this diversity.
These included the much-discussed ‘15% exploration’ option that allowed employees to work on
their own ideas and projects for up to 15% of their time, the ‘30% stretch’ goal requiring that
30% of annual revenues come from new products introduced within the past four years, and
mechanisms such as Genesis Grants to fund nascent ideas or the Pacing Plus program to acceler-
ate the development of high-potential products (see Table 2 for an insider’s definitions of some
of these practices).
The 15% option had, over time, also become an opportunity for 3M employees to ‘bootleg,’
a 3M term that referred to the utilization of company-wide resources – especially those within
its many technology platforms – to explore creative ideas. When we studied 3M, there were 30
such technology platforms ranging from adhesives and ceramics to imaging and medical devices.
As many documents and employees informed us, 3M had a principle governing ownership and
use of these platforms: ‘The technology belongs to the corporation and the products to the
businesses.’
At 3M, it was typical for technology platforms to be housed in their own technology centers. For
instance, the microreplication (MR) technology platform that we studied in detail was housed in
the MR Technology Center (see Table 3 for 3M employees’ perspectives on these technology plat-
forms). Dr. Robert Finochiarro, then the Technical Director of the MR Technology Center,
Table 2. 3M Practices. Source: Coyne (1996)
‘I’ll now make a confession: the 15% part of the 15% rule is essentially meaningless. Some of our technical
people use much more than 15% of their time on projects of their own choosing. Some use less than that;
some use none at all… The number is not so important as the message, which is this: the system has some
slack in it. If you have a good idea, and the commitment to squirrel away time to work on it, and the raw
nerve to skirt your lab manager’s expressed desires, then go for it.’
‘We have the Genesis Grants, which is another way that we support innovation in the company. People
can apply for a $50,000 grant to work on something that they think might be a new technology in the
company.’
‘We had a new product objective that 25% of our sales in any one year should come from products that
are less than five years on the marketplace. That was a stretch objective. Now stretch objectives have to
change as environments change, and so, we changed that objective in 1992 to an objective that 30% of our
sales should come from products that are less than four years on the marketplace.’
‘We felt we needed to add another stretch objective and that was called Pacing Plus and it was identifying
products that changed the basis of competition. And then making sure we allocated resources towards
those kinds of products.
‘My view is that valuable short-term results come from things that have been under way for some time…
what you did two or three years ago. So when an organization gets to a point where we have to emphasize
short-term results, what you need to do is to reach back on the things that are close-to-market, and
accelerate those to market and put more resources on bringing those things that have already started
down that path toward the market.
‘The best description I’ve heard of 3M is that you never know what 3M is going to come up with next, but
neither do they. Another way to describe 3M is we’re like a living organism.’
‘We’ll always win as long as we are able to leverage on the culture of innovation and the people we have in
the company. What management has to do is to provide that environment and then get out of the way. We
don’t want to change this company because the fundamentals are going to be sustainable no matter what
and if we focus on those we’re going to be successful.
746 Organization Studies 32(6)
uncodifiable creative leap’. The process of zigzagging across this ‘hodgepodge of events,
actions and talks’ (Czarniawska 2008: 33) culminated in the creation of a ‘narrative account’
(Langley 1999) summarizing the practices at 3M, and tracing the history of the MR platform
and the emergence of BEF and Trizact. As with the raw interviews and our provisional theoriza-
tions, we again gave 3M an opportunity to review our conclusions. Although 3M requested that
we remove a few statements that were sensitive and confidential, these elisions proved immate-
rial to our analysis.
This paper itself was inspired by recent events at 3M. 3M’s approach to innovation changed
when James McNerney was hired as the CEO in 2000, a time when the company’s revenues and
profits showed signs of stagnation. During his tenure between 2000 and 2004, McNerney sought
to improve operational efficiency by establishing central control, introducing Six Sigma3 initia-
tives and standard routines, and placing an emphasis on projects with the potential to yield quick
results. Even though 3M’s profits improved, these changes appear to have had an adverse impact
on 3M’s culture of innovation. For instance, 3M’s rank among the most innovative companies in
corporate America began to slip during this time (Buderi 2000; Technology Review 2004; Boston
Consulting Group 2009). Under its current CEO George Buckley, however, 3M appears to be
going back to its earlier approach to innovation. In support of his initiatives after taking over from
McNerney, Buckley noted:
Invention is, by its very nature, a disorderly process. You can’t put a Six Sigma process into that area and
say, ‘Well, I’m getting behind on invention, so I’m going to schedule myself for three good ideas on
Wednesday and two on Friday.’ That’s not how creativity works. (Hindo 2007)
Indeed, recent results indicate that 3M’s renewed emphasis on innovation under Buckley has been
paying off both in terms of resilient performance during recessionary times and a slew of new
product announcements, such as 3D optical films for mobile devices, abrasives that self-sharpen
for long life, and low-cost respirator masks for use in developing countries (Daley 2009; Black
2010; Mattioli & Maher 2010).
Given these developments, we decided to re-examine innovation practices at 3M prior to
the introduction of Six Sigma initiatives. Three researchers (including one who had been involved
in the collection and analysis of the original data collected in 1998 and 1999) reviewed the
data and analysis in light of recent advances in our knowledge of complexity. We sought a
more nuanced understanding of the innovation practices at 3M to identify the generative
nature of underlying rules and the products that emerged through nonlinear processes. We also
sought to identify how temporal and relational dynamics were implicated in the process. Once
again, we followed the iterative steps described earlier to generate the insights that we present
in this paper.
Innovation Practices and Processes at 3M
What struck us about 3M were the thousands of different products that the company had gener-
ated over its history. Such a proliferation of products, often daunting and confusing to outsiders,
can readily be explained from a complex adaptive systems perspective. Specifically, from this
perspective, heterogeneity of actors and a few simple rules can give rise to system emergence
and a diversity of outcomes (Simon 1962; Kauffman 1995; Axelrod & Cohen 1999). This held
true for 3M, where interactions among a limited number of technology platforms (each a cluster
of intellectual assets) had spawned a diverse array of products. In addition, the application of a
Garud et al. 747
few simple rules to shape interactions within the organization had contributed to this diversity.
These included the much-discussed ‘15% exploration’ option that allowed employees to work on
their own ideas and projects for up to 15% of their time, the ‘30% stretch’ goal requiring that
30% of annual revenues come from new products introduced within the past four years, and
mechanisms such as Genesis Grants to fund nascent ideas or the Pacing Plus program to acceler-
ate the development of high-potential products (see Table 2 for an insider’s definitions of some
of these practices).
The 15% option had, over time, also become an opportunity for 3M employees to ‘bootleg,’
a 3M term that referred to the utilization of company-wide resources – especially those within
its many technology platforms – to explore creative ideas. When we studied 3M, there were 30
such technology platforms ranging from adhesives and ceramics to imaging and medical devices.
As many documents and employees informed us, 3M had a principle governing ownership and
use of these platforms: ‘The technology belongs to the corporation and the products to the
businesses.’
At 3M, it was typical for technology platforms to be housed in their own technology centers. For
instance, the microreplication (MR) technology platform that we studied in detail was housed in
the MR Technology Center (see Table 3 for 3M employees’ perspectives on these technology plat-
forms). Dr. Robert Finochiarro, then the Technical Director of the MR Technology Center,
Table 2. 3M Practices. Source: Coyne (1996)
‘I’ll now make a confession: the 15% part of the 15% rule is essentially meaningless. Some of our technical
people use much more than 15% of their time on projects of their own choosing. Some use less than that;
some use none at all… The number is not so important as the message, which is this: the system has some
slack in it. If you have a good idea, and the commitment to squirrel away time to work on it, and the raw
nerve to skirt your lab manager’s expressed desires, then go for it.’
‘We have the Genesis Grants, which is another way that we support innovation in the company. People
can apply for a $50,000 grant to work on something that they think might be a new technology in the
company.’
‘We had a new product objective that 25% of our sales in any one year should come from products that
are less than five years on the marketplace. That was a stretch objective. Now stretch objectives have to
change as environments change, and so, we changed that objective in 1992 to an objective that 30% of our
sales should come from products that are less than four years on the marketplace.
‘We felt we needed to add another stretch objective and that was called Pacing Plus and it was identifying
products that changed the basis of competition. And then making sure we allocated resources towards
those kinds of products.
‘My view is that valuable short-term results come from things that have been under way for some time…
what you did two or three years ago. So when an organization gets to a point where we have to emphasize
short-term results, what you need to do is to reach back on the things that are close-to-market, and
accelerate those to market and put more resources on bringing those things that have already started
down that path toward the market.
‘The best description I’ve heard of 3M is that you never know what 3M is going to come up with next, but
neither do they. Another way to describe 3M is we’re like a living organism.’
‘We’ll always win as long as we are able to leverage on the culture of innovation and the people we have in
the company. What management has to do is to provide that environment and then get out of the way. We
don’t want to change this company because the fundamentals are going to be sustainable no matter what
and if we focus on those we’re going to be successful.
748 Organization Studies 32(6)
explained that the center not only nurtured the basic technologies of MR and optics, but it also
partnered with business units to develop innovative products, and provided manufacturing services
to customers. In other words, the center served as a focal resource for 3M employees, businesses
and customers, thereby enabling them to make sense of the MR platform and its potential
applications.
We also found another mechanism – narratives – that enabled employees to make sense of
the assets in these platforms. As several 3M executives wrote: ‘Stories are a habit of mind at
3M, and it’s through them – through the way they make us see ourselves and our business
operations in complex, multi-dimensional forms – that we’re able to discover opportunities for
strategic change’ (Shaw, Brown & Bromiley 1998: 42). Indeed, we were able to read a number
Table 3. The Microreplication Platform in 3M Employees’ Words
‘One key ingredient that has allowed 3M to be innovative, not in one year or in two years but over a
sustained period of time, has been its selectivity and aggressiveness in identifying and investing in significant
technology platforms that are applicable to many markets. The microreplication technology platform is a
very notable example of this strategy. We have been continually developing and investing into our capability
in the microreplication platform for at least 10 or 15 years.’ (Wong)
‘One of the first things we used that (microreplication) for was making the Fresnel lens for the overhead
projector, and that led into a series of other products in the optics area. But, this technology has also found
its way into a host of other applications.’ (Appeldorn)
‘The technology platform involves efforts in two areas. One is developing a basic understanding on the
intellectual property position to protect that technology platform. The other which is very critical to
any success is having the ability to deliver the product to the customer, which means developing the
manufacturing base for implementing that technology platform.’ (Jones)
‘Our advantage is probably the diversity of methods we have for generating microstructures. Although our
patents are on the products themselves, we also have a toolbox full of all kinds of methods for making
structures. Thus, when people within the company come up with product ideas, we can respond relatively
quickly to get them onto the market.’ (Hoopman)
‘The idea of a technology center is to utilize our technology platforms to support what we have and
create new products. By creating a technology center, we have been able to gather critical resources,
both in people and in equipment, to ensure that we have the best capability in the world…Our mission
is first to nurture and develop the basic technologies of microreplication and optics. Second is to partner
with business units in the development of new, innovative products and services. Third is to provide
manufacturing services to our customers.’ (Finocchiaro)
‘An idea can come from anywhere. So, our center works closely with many laboratories and business units
within 3M. Communication is key to this close working arrangement… We have annual events where
many laboratories will present their technologies in almost a mini-trade-show kind of forum. Within
our technology center, we sponsor a symposium every other year [where] we review all the current
programs based on microreplication. We regularly exchange personnel with other technology centers. The
main objective of all this is the cross-fertilization of ideas . . . And, looking at our success stories, in each
case, we have combined our microreplication technology with another core competency or technology
platform.’ (Finocchiaro).
‘Our Abrasives division has used many different technologies to reinvent itself several times. But the
reinvention that’s going on today is far more dramatic. And it comes from the 15% time, of a person taking
initiative to explore new technologies for abrasives. One person in the abrasive division laboratory looked
at many different new technologies within 3M, started to work with microreplication which is an optical
technology, and found that, if he combined that technology with abrasives technology, he could create an
abrasive material that was far superior to anything in the marketplace.’ (Coyne)
Garud et al. 749
of 3M innovation narratives during our engagement with the company. From these narratives,
we learned how top management had circumscribed its own ‘destructive’ potential when it
came to innovation. For instance, one narrative titled ‘Back to the future’ had in it the following
quote (also repeated in many other narratives of innovation at 3M) from 3M’s legendary chairman,
William McKnight:
Those men and women to whom we delegate authority and responsibility... are going to want to do their
jobs in their own way... Mistakes will be made, but if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she
makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it is dictatorial and
undertakes to tell those under its authority exactly how they must do their job. Management that is
destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative, and it is essential that we have many people
with initiative if we are to continue to grow.
This particular quote was brought to our attention most frequently during our discussions with
3M employees and we can understand why it is such an important part of 3M’s culture. In tradi-
tional hierarchies, top managers can indeed become dictatorial. Implicit in this quote, we see a
culture that places limits on top management’s dysfunctional micro-management of the work per-
formed by engaged employees. The message contained in this quote and expressed in different
ways in other 3M narratives of innovation suggests an organizational culture that affords its
employees the psychological safety (Edmondson 1999) required to make exploration the sine qua
non of organizing.
Indeed, through a combination of our own interviews and compilations of innovation narratives,
we learned how the MR technology platform itself originated, not as a result of a top management
directive or initiative but from the discovery of a new thermofax imaging technology in the late
1950s by Roger Appeldorn, using his 15% time. Similarly, we learned how, during the early 1960s,
Appeldorn and his colleagues drew inspiration from an old 3M product and applied this discovery
to create a new product line. Appeldorn used purchase requisitions for materials to hire people dur-
ing a hiring freeze and, along with colleagues, even made sales calls on public school teachers
when 3M’s own marketing people expressed reservations about the market potential of the new
product line. We also learned about the linguistic origins of the term ‘microreplication’. Appeldorn
and his colleagues had originally named the technology ‘structured surfaces’ after seeing fine pat-
terns on the plastic Fresnel lens they had developed. They then changed the name to ‘microreplica-
tion’ to more evocatively convey the process of replicating precise microscopic patterns on any
material’s surface to alter its physical properties.
Our engagement with 3M gave us the opportunity to explore in greater depth how employees
experienced and navigated through complexities associated with the innovation process. Employees
whom we interviewed offered us their own narratives of two innovation journeys that culminated
in the emergence of brightness enhancement films (BEF) and the Trizact abrasive (see Tables 4
and 5 for illustrative comments). BEF is a thin plastic film that is applied to a laptop computer’s
LCD display to enhance its brightness, whereas Trizact is a new abrasive that cuts faster, finishes
finer and lasts longer than traditional abrasives. BEF was the end result of a journey that languished
for decades as researchers attempted to identify viable commercial applications for the optical film
they had developed. Conversely, those involved with Trizact thought that the disruptive nature (see
Christensen 1997) of the product would have an immediate impact on the market. Surprisingly, the
technology was not adopted for over three years by customers. Underlying the two seemingly
unrelated products and the journeys that led to their emergence were the MR technology platform
and other practices at 3M. In order to gain a deeper understanding of these practices, we first sum-
marize the journeys.
748 Organization Studies 32(6)
explained that the center not only nurtured the basic technologies of MR and optics, but it also
partnered with business units to develop innovative products, and provided manufacturing services
to customers. In other words, the center served as a focal resource for 3M employees, businesses
and customers, thereby enabling them to make sense of the MR platform and its potential
applications.
We also found another mechanism – narratives – that enabled employees to make sense of
the assets in these platforms. As several 3M executives wrote: ‘Stories are a habit of mind at
3M, and it’s through them – through the way they make us see ourselves and our business
operations in complex, multi-dimensional forms – that we’re able to discover opportunities for
strategic change’ (Shaw, Brown & Bromiley 1998: 42). Indeed, we were able to read a number
Table 3. The Microreplication Platform in 3M Employees’ Words
‘One key ingredient that has allowed 3M to be innovative, not in one year or in two years but over a
sustained period of time, has been its selectivity and aggressiveness in identifying and investing in significant
technology platforms that are applicable to many markets. The microreplication technology platform is a
very notable example of this strategy. We have been continually developing and investing into our capability
in the microreplication platform for at least 10 or 15 years.’ (Wong)
‘One of the first things we used that (microreplication) for was making the Fresnel lens for the overhead
projector, and that led into a series of other products in the optics area. But, this technology has also found
its way into a host of other applications.’ (Appeldorn)
‘The technology platform involves efforts in two areas. One is developing a basic understanding on the
intellectual property position to protect that technology platform. The other which is very critical to
any success is having the ability to deliver the product to the customer, which means developing the
manufacturing base for implementing that technology platform.’ (Jones)
‘Our advantage is probably the diversity of methods we have for generating microstructures. Although our
patents are on the products themselves, we also have a toolbox full of all kinds of methods for making
structures. Thus, when people within the company come up with product ideas, we can respond relatively
quickly to get them onto the market.’ (Hoopman)
‘The idea of a technology center is to utilize our technology platforms to support what we have and
create new products. By creating a technology center, we have been able to gather critical resources,
both in people and in equipment, to ensure that we have the best capability in the world…Our mission
is first to nurture and develop the basic technologies of microreplication and optics. Second is to partner
with business units in the development of new, innovative products and services. Third is to provide
manufacturing services to our customers.’ (Finocchiaro)
‘An idea can come from anywhere. So, our center works closely with many laboratories and business units
within 3M. Communication is key to this close working arrangement… We have annual events where
many laboratories will present their technologies in almost a mini-trade-show kind of forum. Within
our technology center, we sponsor a symposium every other year [where] we review all the current
programs based on microreplication. We regularly exchange personnel with other technology centers. The
main objective of all this is the cross-fertilization of ideas . . . And, looking at our success stories, in each
case, we have combined our microreplication technology with another core competency or technology
platform.’ (Finocchiaro).
‘Our Abrasives division has used many different technologies to reinvent itself several times. But the
reinvention that’s going on today is far more dramatic. And it comes from the 15% time, of a person taking
initiative to explore new technologies for abrasives. One person in the abrasive division laboratory looked
at many different new technologies within 3M, started to work with microreplication which is an optical
technology, and found that, if he combined that technology with abrasives technology, he could create an
abrasive material that was far superior to anything in the marketplace.’ (Coyne)
Garud et al. 749
of 3M innovation narratives during our engagement with the company. From these narratives,
we learned how top management had circumscribed its own ‘destructive’ potential when it
came to innovation. For instance, one narrative titled ‘Back to the future’ had in it the following
quote (also repeated in many other narratives of innovation at 3M) from 3M’s legendary chairman,
William McKnight:
Those men and women to whom we delegate authority and responsibility... are going to want to do their
jobs in their own way... Mistakes will be made, but if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she
makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it is dictatorial and
undertakes to tell those under its authority exactly how they must do their job. Management that is
destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative, and it is essential that we have many people
with initiative if we are to continue to grow.
This particular quote was brought to our attention most frequently during our discussions with
3M employees and we can understand why it is such an important part of 3M’s culture. In tradi-
tional hierarchies, top managers can indeed become dictatorial. Implicit in this quote, we see a
culture that places limits on top management’s dysfunctional micro-management of the work per-
formed by engaged employees. The message contained in this quote and expressed in different
ways in other 3M narratives of innovation suggests an organizational culture that affords its
employees the psychological safety (Edmondson 1999) required to make exploration the sine qua
non of organizing.
Indeed, through a combination of our own interviews and compilations of innovation narratives,
we learned how the MR technology platform itself originated, not as a result of a top management
directive or initiative but from the discovery of a new thermofax imaging technology in the late
1950s by Roger Appeldorn, using his 15% time. Similarly, we learned how, during the early 1960s,
Appeldorn and his colleagues drew inspiration from an old 3M product and applied this discovery
to create a new product line. Appeldorn used purchase requisitions for materials to hire people dur-
ing a hiring freeze and, along with colleagues, even made sales calls on public school teachers
when 3M’s own marketing people expressed reservations about the market potential of the new
product line. We also learned about the linguistic origins of the term ‘microreplication’. Appeldorn
and his colleagues had originally named the technology ‘structured surfaces’ after seeing fine pat-
terns on the plastic Fresnel lens they had developed. They then changed the name to ‘microreplica-
tion’ to more evocatively convey the process of replicating precise microscopic patterns on any
material’s surface to alter its physical properties.
Our engagement with 3M gave us the opportunity to explore in greater depth how employees
experienced and navigated through complexities associated with the innovation process. Employees
whom we interviewed offered us their own narratives of two innovation journeys that culminated
in the emergence of brightness enhancement films (BEF) and the Trizact abrasive (see Tables 4
and 5 for illustrative comments). BEF is a thin plastic film that is applied to a laptop computer’s
LCD display to enhance its brightness, whereas Trizact is a new abrasive that cuts faster, finishes
finer and lasts longer than traditional abrasives. BEF was the end result of a journey that languished
for decades as researchers attempted to identify viable commercial applications for the optical film
they had developed. Conversely, those involved with Trizact thought that the disruptive nature (see
Christensen 1997) of the product would have an immediate impact on the market. Surprisingly, the
technology was not adopted for over three years by customers. Underlying the two seemingly
unrelated products and the journeys that led to their emergence were the MR technology platform
and other practices at 3M. In order to gain a deeper understanding of these practices, we first sum-
marize the journeys.
750 Organization Studies 32(6)
Table 4. The BEF Innovation Journey in 3M Employees’ Words
Illustrative quotes Practices/
Comments
‘We started making some linear Fresnel lenses that were magnifiers for the
LED watches but that market went down as fast as it went up. We’d find a lot of
small applications as component parts, but selling just hundreds and even
thousands of these is not a viable business. We struggled for a good 15 years.
Still, we learned a lot about tooling, a lot about converting the parts and selling
them.’ (Cobb)
False-starts and
partial wins
still add to
knowledge in
3M’s technology
platforms.
‘I came across a distribution system for light (patented by Loren Whitehead) that
conducted light within a rectangular or square tube by total internal reflection. Earlier,
we had made arrays of solar-concentrating lenses and learned a lot about how to do
that. We also had tried to make decorative materials that looked like they were not
flat, called optically-shaped film. When I saw what Whitehead was doing, I was able to
visualize our capability of making tooling that, by his standard, would be considered
exquisite, and also a process to make the film 30-some-odd inches wide and very thin.
I began to realize that the efficiency of the thin film in a round tube would actually be
greater than in the square tube. It took quite a bit of work, but we also were able to
receive patents on the thin, flexible film itself.’ (Cobb)
Collision of
people, ideas
and technologies
combined with
prior several
disparate
products enables
a 3M scientists
to visualize a
new future.
‘Between Christmas and New Year’s when things were pretty quiet, I talked
our machinist in the Optics Technology Center into making the tool for putting
up a roll (of film). We ‘bootlegged’ it, since we never did get the authorization to
do it. Once we made the tool, [my boss] suggested that I apply for a Genesis
Grant. And, I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of the grants, which
allowed me to take that first tool and turn it into pilot plant production.’
(Cobb)
15% option,
bootlegging,
Genesis Grant,
pilot plant
experimentation,
technology
platform.
‘Within six months, we laid out a business plan with a vision, some pricing, and some
markets that we wanted to go in. The plan also stated that we wanted to obsolete
our products and develop alternative technology. We put a small team together. It
included a laboratory person from the microreplication technology center. We hired
some people out of school. We had a process engineer developing an alternative
manufacturing process. And, one of the keys to our success was our ability to use
other divisions’ facilities. So, we didn’t have to invest into significant infrastructure to
start delivering products to customers.’ (Jones)
Use expertise
and facilities
all over 3M to
experiment.
‘In view of the rapid changes in the electronic display market, if we were to just
meet 3M’s internal new-product-to-sales ratio objective, we would not be able to
stay in the business very long. That is because the industry and the markets and the
technologies are changing a lot faster than a goal of 30% new products over four
years could support. So we had to learn how to grow this business based on new
technologies, new products, and based on a new-product-to-sales ratio substantially
higher than the aggregate corporate objective for all divisions in 3M.’ (Wong)
Performativity
of 30% ostensive
rule.
‘We’re not a machine tool because everything doesn’t work smoothly. We’re not totally
chaotic either. We’re somewhere in between, like organized chaos. Specifically, we are
soft on some of the rules. We try to follow an introduction plan, but we’re dynamic
enough to skip steps when necessary. One of our goals is to get products to market
rapidly and have a number of hits in the marketplace so that we can be successful. If we
were rigidly organized with step 1, step 2, step 3, then I think we would fail.’ (Jones)
Performativity of
ostensive rules.
‘Now, we also have 3M Dual Brightness Enhancement Film (DBEF). DBEF was
introduced a year ago and is now growing rapidly. It is based upon a new technology
platform beyond microreplication. So the innovation and the renewal process
continues.’ (Wong)
Spin-offs, a new
platform, a
whole new cycle
of innovation.
Garud et al. 751
Table 5. The Trizact Innovation Journey in 3M Employees’ Words
Illustrative quotes Practices/Comments
‘Back in 1988, one of the people in tech service started having this notion
that, perhaps, microreplicated rivet material that helped make yachts a little
bit faster could be applied to aircraft to reduce fuel consumption. He started
talking around to different people involved in the rivet project or people who
understood microreplication. And so they got involved, using their 15% time.
And the deeper they got into it, the more they realized that maybe this just
wasn’t something for aircraft alone. Maybe it was a new way to make a coated
abrasive.’ (Dippon)
15% exploration
option and support
of assets in the
technology platform.
‘In 1991, the project became a Pacing Program for the Abrasives Division -- that
meant getting corporate funding, and it helped bring in additional people to
the project. And now they could start to make steps more quickly, they could
afford more equipment to do testing on a small pilot plant. Usually, at this stage
pilot plant is equipment that’s kind of been … take this old piece of equipment
from this line that’s not used anymore, maybe add a new winder to it, but it’s a
conglomeration of materials of equipment to be able to do it as easily as we can
with as little money as possible.’ (Dippon)
Pacing Program
and bricolaging
of equipment and
facilities.
‘After the Pacing Program was initiated, we held an off campus kick off meeting.
At that meeting there were about two dozen people representing nine different
laboratories around the corporation. Some of the operating divisions were also
involved in the program, so we had representatives from marketing. We also had
engineering representatives and most of the disciplines that you’d think would
be needed in order to start a successful business were on board from that time.
Many of the key people in the program either were brand new to the Abrasives
division or outsiders who didn’t know any better. Part of our success was we
didn’t know it couldn’t be done and went ahead and just did it.’ (Collins)
Relational
complexities
afforded because of
the Pacing Program
status.
‘In about 1993 or thereabouts, we had our first pilot plant within the Abrasives
buildings themselves, so we weren’t depending upon or sharing time on
somebody else’s equipment. Now we could run experiments every day of the
week. And again, the more you can experiment, the faster the progress that you
can make.’ (Dippon)
Experimentation
and prototyping
with dedicated pilot
plant facilities.
‘And what we found was that the team would get very excited by what they had
created but, when they tested it with the customer, it didn’t perform nearly as
well. Well, soon, the tech service engineer who was involved learned that he could
do most of the testing in simulated customer conditions in one of our centers.
The team started to see positive results out in the field and the next step was
to have customers use it on a continuing basis and tell us how it performed and
what value it offered. This also allowed us to produce more materials through our
pilot plant and understand the whole process of manufacture as well.’ (Dippon)
3M guideline in
practice – customer
testing.
‘The new abrasive we made doesn’t look the same and cannot be used in the
same manner as a conventional abrasive. You have to reduce the pressure when
pushing on the abrasive or you’ll wear it out very quickly and will not experience
the value it provides when you use it properly. It required quite an effort to
convince the customer to change the way they use sandpaper. This was a case
where we thought we had invented a better mousetrap and the world would
beat a path to our door. But, it didn’t. We were a bit surprised by the kind of
market resistance or inertia that we had to overcome.’ (Collins)
Asynchronies and
diachronies in the
innovation journey.
(Continued)
750 Organization Studies 32(6)
Table 4. The BEF Innovation Journey in 3M Employees’ Words
Illustrative quotes Practices/
Comments
‘We started making some linear Fresnel lenses that were magnifiers for the
LED watches but that market went down as fast as it went up. We’d find a lot of
small applications as component parts, but selling just hundreds and even
thousands of these is not a viable business. We struggled for a good 15 years.
Still, we learned a lot about tooling, a lot about converting the parts and selling
them.’ (Cobb)
False-starts and
partial wins
still add to
knowledge in
3M’s technology
platforms.
‘I came across a distribution system for light (patented by Loren Whitehead) that
conducted light within a rectangular or square tube by total internal reflection. Earlier,
we had made arrays of solar-concentrating lenses and learned a lot about how to do
that. We also had tried to make decorative materials that looked like they were not
flat, called optically-shaped film. When I saw what Whitehead was doing, I was able to
visualize our capability of making tooling that, by his standard, would be considered
exquisite, and also a process to make the film 30-some-odd inches wide and very thin.
I began to realize that the efficiency of the thin film in a round tube would actually be
greater than in the square tube. It took quite a bit of work, but we also were able to
receive patents on the thin, flexible film itself.’ (Cobb)
Collision of
people, ideas
and technologies
combined with
prior several
disparate
products enables
a 3M scientists
to visualize a
new future.
‘Between Christmas and New Year’s when things were pretty quiet, I talked
our machinist in the Optics Technology Center into making the tool for putting
up a roll (of film). We ‘bootlegged’ it, since we never did get the authorization to
do it. Once we made the tool, [my boss] suggested that I apply for a Genesis
Grant. And, I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of the grants, which
allowed me to take that first tool and turn it into pilot plant production.’
(Cobb)
15% option,
bootlegging,
Genesis Grant,
pilot plant
experimentation,
technology
platform.
‘Within six months, we laid out a business plan with a vision, some pricing, and some
markets that we wanted to go in. The plan also stated that we wanted to obsolete
our products and develop alternative technology. We put a small team together. It
included a laboratory person from the microreplication technology center. We hired
some people out of school. We had a process engineer developing an alternative
manufacturing process. And, one of the keys to our success was our ability to use
other divisions’ facilities. So, we didn’t have to invest into significant infrastructure to
start delivering products to customers.’ (Jones)
Use expertise
and facilities
all over 3M to
experiment.
‘In view of the rapid changes in the electronic display market, if we were to just
meet 3M’s internal new-product-to-sales ratio objective, we would not be able to
stay in the business very long. That is because the industry and the markets and the
technologies are changing a lot faster than a goal of 30% new products over four
years could support. So we had to learn how to grow this business based on new
technologies, new products, and based on a new-product-to-sales ratio substantially
higher than the aggregate corporate objective for all divisions in 3M.’ (Wong)
Performativity
of 30% ostensive
rule.
‘We’re not a machine tool because everything doesn’t work smoothly. We’re not totally
chaotic either. We’re somewhere in between, like organized chaos. Specifically, we are
soft on some of the rules. We try to follow an introduction plan, but we’re dynamic
enough to skip steps when necessary. One of our goals is to get products to market
rapidly and have a number of hits in the marketplace so that we can be successful. If we
were rigidly organized with step 1, step 2, step 3, then I think we would fail.’ (Jones)
Performativity of
ostensive rules.
‘Now, we also have 3M Dual Brightness Enhancement Film (DBEF). DBEF was
introduced a year ago and is now growing rapidly. It is based upon a new technology
platform beyond microreplication. So the innovation and the renewal process
continues.’ (Wong)
Spin-offs, a new
platform, a
whole new cycle
of innovation.
Garud et al. 751
Table 5. The Trizact Innovation Journey in 3M Employees’ Words
Illustrative quotes Practices/Comments
‘Back in 1988, one of the people in tech service started having this notion
that, perhaps, microreplicated rivet material that helped make yachts a little
bit faster could be applied to aircraft to reduce fuel consumption. He started
talking around to different people involved in the rivet project or people who
understood microreplication. And so they got involved, using their 15% time.
And the deeper they got into it, the more they realized that maybe this just
wasn’t something for aircraft alone. Maybe it was a new way to make a coated
abrasive.’ (Dippon)
15% exploration
option and support
of assets in the
technology platform.
‘In 1991, the project became a Pacing Program for the Abrasives Division -- that
meant getting corporate funding, and it helped bring in additional people to
the project. And now they could start to make steps more quickly, they could
afford more equipment to do testing on a small pilot plant. Usually, at this stage
pilot plant is equipment that’s kind of been … take this old piece of equipment
from this line that’s not used anymore, maybe add a new winder to it, but it’s a
conglomeration of materials of equipment to be able to do it as easily as we can
with as little money as possible.’ (Dippon)
Pacing Program
and bricolaging
of equipment and
facilities.
‘After the Pacing Program was initiated, we held an off campus kick off meeting.
At that meeting there were about two dozen people representing nine different
laboratories around the corporation. Some of the operating divisions were also
involved in the program, so we had representatives from marketing. We also had
engineering representatives and most of the disciplines that you’d think would
be needed in order to start a successful business were on board from that time.
Many of the key people in the program either were brand new to the Abrasives
division or outsiders who didn’t know any better. Part of our success was we
didn’t know it couldn’t be done and went ahead and just did it.’ (Collins)
Relational
complexities
afforded because of
the Pacing Program
status.
‘In about 1993 or thereabouts, we had our first pilot plant within the Abrasives
buildings themselves, so we weren’t depending upon or sharing time on
somebody else’s equipment. Now we could run experiments every day of the
week. And again, the more you can experiment, the faster the progress that you
can make.’ (Dippon)
Experimentation
and prototyping
with dedicated pilot
plant facilities.
‘And what we found was that the team would get very excited by what they had
created but, when they tested it with the customer, it didn’t perform nearly as
well. Well, soon, the tech service engineer who was involved learned that he could
do most of the testing in simulated customer conditions in one of our centers.
The team started to see positive results out in the field and the next step was
to have customers use it on a continuing basis and tell us how it performed and
what value it offered. This also allowed us to produce more materials through our
pilot plant and understand the whole process of manufacture as well.’ (Dippon)
3M guideline in
practice – customer
testing.
‘The new abrasive we made doesn’t look the same and cannot be used in the
same manner as a conventional abrasive. You have to reduce the pressure when
pushing on the abrasive or you’ll wear it out very quickly and will not experience
the value it provides when you use it properly. It required quite an effort to
convince the customer to change the way they use sandpaper. This was a case
where we thought we had invented a better mousetrap and the world would
beat a path to our door. But, it didn’t. We were a bit surprised by the kind of
market resistance or inertia that we had to overcome.’ (Collins)
Asynchronies and
diachronies in the
innovation journey.
(Continued)
752 Organization Studies 32(6)
The Brightness Enhancement Film Innovation Journey
The BEF innovation journey dates back to the very origins of the MR technology. In the late 1950s,
efforts to improve 3M’s thermofax photocopying technique led Roger Appeldorn and his col-
leagues to discover a new imaging technology during their 15% exploration time. They thought
that this discovery could be the basis for a new line of products such as overhead transparencies
and overhead projectors, but they were unsuccessful in convincing corporate staff because of the
high manufacturing costs involved. Appeldorn and his colleagues then bootlegged resources and
were successful in developing a new plastic Fresnel lens that was far cheaper and superior to other
lenses available at that time. And when they noticed the microscopic pattern on the plastic surface
of the Fresnel lens, they came to realize that changing the surface of a material would enable them
to radically change its other physical properties. This insight laid the foundation for what later
developed into the MR technology platform.
After making the new Fresnel lenses for its own overhead projector product line for nearly a
decade, 3M created a new division called Industrial Optics to develop and sell applications based
on the Fresnel lenses. The first opportunity that emerged was to make a magnifier for LED watches.
However, when the popularity of LED watches declined, so did the business opportunity for this
product. Many subsequent applications followed, but most had very limited markets. Nonetheless,
each of these experiments and niche applications resulted in people at the division accumulating
expertise in the technology and developing a toolkit of manufacturing techniques that later became
the basis for the Optics Technology Center. However, the Industrial Optics division itself lan-
guished for the next 15 years, with only the support of Appeldorn and a few other executives keep-
ing the division (and the idea of microreplication) alive.
While working on a project at the University of Minnesota, Sandy Cobb, a scientist in the
Optics division, became aware of an invention patented by Loren Whitehead at the University of
British Columbia to transport and distribute light using rectangular tubes through total internal
reflection. Cobb immediately thought of a way to improve on Whitehead’s invention by employing
the optically shaped film that their division had developed for use in decorative applications. Cobb
recounted:
Illustrative quotes Practices/Comments
‘One of the things that you often find about innovation is that it will spin off
into something that you didn’t necessarily expect at the time, and which 10
years later, will be a bigger business than the original idea…. Since 1996, we have
spun off another Pacing Plus program directed at the silicon wafer industry. We
learned that our microreplicated product could perform a similar function more
efficiently, in less time, and with superior quality. This has the potential to be
much bigger than the initial project that was applied only to conventional abrasive
applications.’ (Dippon).
Spin-offs and Pacing
Plus.
‘Early on, we were primarily a technically based program, so it made sense to
have someone with a technical background leading it. Later, it became more of
a business development program, so I stepped down and turned it over to a
business manager-type person. Today a sales manager leads the program, since
sales and marketing have become so important. So the program’s leadership has
evolved to reflect the true challenges.’ (Collins)
Distributed program
leadership as a
journey unfolds.
Table 5. (Continued)
Garud et al. 753
When I saw what Whitehead was doing, I was able to visualize our capability of making tooling that by
his standard would be considered exquisite, and also a process that would make the film wide and very
thin. I also began to realize that the efficiency of the thin film in a round tube would actually be greater
than in the square tube.
To explore whether his idea had any merit, Cobb resorted to bootlegging, just as his boss Appeldorn
had done during the early 1960s. Cobb recounted:
Between Christmas and New Year ’s when things were pretty quiet, I talked our machinist in the Optics
Technology Center into making the tool for putting up a roll [of film]. We ‘bootlegged’ it since we never
did get the authorization to do it.
When the idea worked and became the basis for several patents, Appeldorn suggested that
Cobb apply for a grant under the new Genesis Grants program that 3M had established to fund
such exploratory work. On obtaining a Genesis Grant, Cobb and his colleagues improved upon
that first bootlegged tool and built a pilot plant to make small batches of film for testing new
applications. However, they faced a problem because an appropriate light source for their appli-
cation was not available. The metal halide lamps being developed at that time were too large, too
hot, and did not come on instantly. Therefore, they could only apply their newly developed film
to a few niche applications, such as traffic signs and guidance tubes that could be used in con-
struction zones on highways.
In 1986, Rich Dryer, a scientist at the Optics Technology Center, noticed that a piece of paper
looked brighter when the plastic film was placed on it. Though this discovery was interesting and
gave rise to many ideas, none formed the basis for a viable business. Other experiments and ‘fail-
ures’ followed with each adding to the MR technologies, tooling and processes. But the division
itself languished from a business standpoint for want of commercially viable applications.
When Paul Guehler, a 3M vice president, was charged with breathing fresh life into the strug-
gling division during the early 1990s, he and the division’s managers carefully assessed the market
potential of the division’s various technologies, ideas and applications. They then decided to focus
resources and efforts into using the optical film to develop filters for the ergonomic management
of computer displays.
Even as the division was building the new filter business, it became apparent that the film could
possibly play a role in the emerging market for laptop computers with liquid crystal displays. The
emergence of backlit liquid crystal displays solved a key constraint – the lack of a light source –
that Cobb and his colleagues had confronted in developing a commercially viable application for
their optical film. Reflecting on this development, Cobb remarked:
With our optical lighting film we never found its niche, the niche found us. We didn’t find the right
combination of things to make a product that had a very strong appeal or need. The film worked extremely
well, but it didn’t have all the ingredients that were necessary, that is, a light source. However, we had a
system of people to look at it and find a need for it. Communication was a big part of that.
Within six months, the Optical Systems division laid out a basic business plan with a vision,
target markets and a product migration map. Recognizing that the electronics market would move
much faster than most of 3M’s traditional product markets, the division planned to make its own
products obsolete by developing new products and alternate manufacturing technologies. The divi-
sion put together a small team of people including an expert from the MR Technology Center, a
manufacturing process engineer, and several new hires. Again, this team bootlegged equipment
752 Organization Studies 32(6)
The Brightness Enhancement Film Innovation Journey
The BEF innovation journey dates back to the very origins of the MR technology. In the late 1950s,
efforts to improve 3M’s thermofax photocopying technique led Roger Appeldorn and his col-
leagues to discover a new imaging technology during their 15% exploration time. They thought
that this discovery could be the basis for a new line of products such as overhead transparencies
and overhead projectors, but they were unsuccessful in convincing corporate staff because of the
high manufacturing costs involved. Appeldorn and his colleagues then bootlegged resources and
were successful in developing a new plastic Fresnel lens that was far cheaper and superior to other
lenses available at that time. And when they noticed the microscopic pattern on the plastic surface
of the Fresnel lens, they came to realize that changing the surface of a material would enable them
to radically change its other physical properties. This insight laid the foundation for what later
developed into the MR technology platform.
After making the new Fresnel lenses for its own overhead projector product line for nearly a
decade, 3M created a new division called Industrial Optics to develop and sell applications based
on the Fresnel lenses. The first opportunity that emerged was to make a magnifier for LED watches.
However, when the popularity of LED watches declined, so did the business opportunity for this
product. Many subsequent applications followed, but most had very limited markets. Nonetheless,
each of these experiments and niche applications resulted in people at the division accumulating
expertise in the technology and developing a toolkit of manufacturing techniques that later became
the basis for the Optics Technology Center. However, the Industrial Optics division itself lan-
guished for the next 15 years, with only the support of Appeldorn and a few other executives keep-
ing the division (and the idea of microreplication) alive.
While working on a project at the University of Minnesota, Sandy Cobb, a scientist in the
Optics division, became aware of an invention patented by Loren Whitehead at the University of
British Columbia to transport and distribute light using rectangular tubes through total internal
reflection. Cobb immediately thought of a way to improve on Whitehead’s invention by employing
the optically shaped film that their division had developed for use in decorative applications. Cobb
recounted:
Illustrative quotes Practices/Comments
‘One of the things that you often find about innovation is that it will spin off
into something that you didn’t necessarily expect at the time, and which 10
years later, will be a bigger business than the original idea…. Since 1996, we have
spun off another Pacing Plus program directed at the silicon wafer industry. We
learned that our microreplicated product could perform a similar function more
efficiently, in less time, and with superior quality. This has the potential to be
much bigger than the initial project that was applied only to conventional abrasive
applications.’ (Dippon).
Spin-offs and Pacing
Plus.
‘Early on, we were primarily a technically based program, so it made sense to
have someone with a technical background leading it. Later, it became more of
a business development program, so I stepped down and turned it over to a
business manager-type person. Today a sales manager leads the program, since
sales and marketing have become so important. So the program’s leadership has
evolved to reflect the true challenges.’ (Collins)
Distributed program
leadership as a
journey unfolds.
Table 5. (Continued)
Garud et al. 753
When I saw what Whitehead was doing, I was able to visualize our capability of making tooling that by
his standard would be considered exquisite, and also a process that would make the film wide and very
thin. I also began to realize that the efficiency of the thin film in a round tube would actually be greater
than in the square tube.
To explore whether his idea had any merit, Cobb resorted to bootlegging, just as his boss Appeldorn
had done during the early 1960s. Cobb recounted:
Between Christmas and New Year ’s when things were pretty quiet, I talked our machinist in the Optics
Technology Center into making the tool for putting up a roll [of film]. We ‘bootlegged’ it since we never
did get the authorization to do it.
When the idea worked and became the basis for several patents, Appeldorn suggested that
Cobb apply for a grant under the new Genesis Grants program that 3M had established to fund
such exploratory work. On obtaining a Genesis Grant, Cobb and his colleagues improved upon
that first bootlegged tool and built a pilot plant to make small batches of film for testing new
applications. However, they faced a problem because an appropriate light source for their appli-
cation was not available. The metal halide lamps being developed at that time were too large, too
hot, and did not come on instantly. Therefore, they could only apply their newly developed film
to a few niche applications, such as traffic signs and guidance tubes that could be used in con-
struction zones on highways.
In 1986, Rich Dryer, a scientist at the Optics Technology Center, noticed that a piece of paper
looked brighter when the plastic film was placed on it. Though this discovery was interesting and
gave rise to many ideas, none formed the basis for a viable business. Other experiments and ‘fail-
ures’ followed with each adding to the MR technologies, tooling and processes. But the division
itself languished from a business standpoint for want of commercially viable applications.
When Paul Guehler, a 3M vice president, was charged with breathing fresh life into the strug-
gling division during the early 1990s, he and the division’s managers carefully assessed the market
potential of the division’s various technologies, ideas and applications. They then decided to focus
resources and efforts into using the optical film to develop filters for the ergonomic management
of computer displays.
Even as the division was building the new filter business, it became apparent that the film could
possibly play a role in the emerging market for laptop computers with liquid crystal displays. The
emergence of backlit liquid crystal displays solved a key constraint – the lack of a light source –
that Cobb and his colleagues had confronted in developing a commercially viable application for
their optical film. Reflecting on this development, Cobb remarked:
With our optical lighting film we never found its niche, the niche found us. We didn’t find the right
combination of things to make a product that had a very strong appeal or need. The film worked extremely
well, but it didn’t have all the ingredients that were necessary, that is, a light source. However, we had a
system of people to look at it and find a need for it. Communication was a big part of that.
Within six months, the Optical Systems division laid out a basic business plan with a vision,
target markets and a product migration map. Recognizing that the electronics market would move
much faster than most of 3M’s traditional product markets, the division planned to make its own
products obsolete by developing new products and alternate manufacturing technologies. The divi-
sion put together a small team of people including an expert from the MR Technology Center, a
manufacturing process engineer, and several new hires. Again, this team bootlegged equipment
754 Organization Studies 32(6)
and facilities from other divisions to begin producing and delivering products to customers without
investing significantly in infrastructure at the beginning.
These early attempts demonstrated that their product’s design was not optimal for the new
application. Sandy Cobb explained the problem they confronted: ‘The film we had was very
coarse and there was terrible interference even though it made the display brighter.’ Cobb and his
colleagues were able to solve the problem after some experimentation, but it became apparent to
them that the cosmetic quality required for the film far exceeded their capability to produce it in
high volume. Indeed, by 1994, they were finding it difficult to schedule production at a sister
division’s facility. So, with help from the MR Technology Center, they developed a new produc-
tion process for the optical film and scaled up their production capabilities. Cobb observed:
What also made it very successful was the fact that we had the accumulated expertise over all these years.
We also had the patents and intellectual property. It took a tremendous amount of marketing on our part
and it took some very brilliant people along that line, very determined people to sell into a market that was
99% initially in Japan.
The resultant film – BEF – enhanced the brightness of backlit flat panel displays by 50% to
100%, extended the life of laptop batteries, and was rated by Compaq among the top eight innova-
tions associated with laptop computers. Even as BEF was transforming into a blockbuster product,
the division was already launching a second generation of brightness-enhancing films. As Andy
Wong, the division’s General Manager explained, the division would not be satisfied with simply
meeting 3M’s 30% stretch goal: ‘Now, we also have the 3M Dual Brightness Enhancement Film
(DBEF). It is based upon a new technology platform beyond microreplication. So the innovation
and renewal process continues.’
Thus, we see in the BEF journey how the various practices in place at 3M enabled the company
to wait, prepare and finally leverage an opportunity when it presented itself. For instance, the 15%
exploration time, bootlegging and Genesis Grants made it possible for the scientists to follow up
on ideas and to experiment with different applications even when no new products were readily
apparent and the division itself was languishing. Even experiments that did not pan out played
important roles. They led to intellectual property positions, knowledge on problems and possibili-
ties, and the generation of a toolkit of techniques and processes. The Optics Technology Center
(later, the MR Technology Center) focused all of these accumulated efforts toward augmenting the
MR technology platform until the time was right for leveraging these assets into viable products.
These practices enabled the Optical Systems division to ‘stretch time out’ until the market applica-
tion materialized.
Aside from the ability to deal with and even benefit from such temporal complexity, we also
see the practices that facilitated productive relational dynamics. For instance, the ability to bring
together experts from across the corporation enabled cross-fertilization, thereby ensuring the
creation of novel processes and techniques. The ability to make use of the resources from other
divisions ensured that projects could proceed without investing in new expertise or fresh
resources. In fact, Paul Guehler noted that, at times, the Optical Systems division had over 150
people from across 3M working on the BEF and DBEF projects at no cost to the division.
Mindful engagement with customers eventually resulted in a match between 3M’s technology
capabilities and unarticulated customer needs, manifest in a continuing stream of products.
Finally, we see simple rules being adjusted to suit the dynamic context, as when the Optical
Systems division planned to outperform 3M’s 30% stretch goal to keep pace with the rapidly
evolving markets that it had entered.
Garud et al. 755
The Trizact Innovation Journey
In contrast to the BEF journey, the development of the Trizact abrasive owed its origins in the late
1980s not to a scientist or researcher, but to a service technician with a passion for aircraft and flying.
This person thought that the microreplicated rivet material used in yachts could potentially reduce
fuel consumption if it were used in aircraft. The service technician started discussing his idea with
people involved in the microreplicated rivet project and those with expertise in MR technology.
A small team from the Abrasives division, which was exploring whether the MR technology
could be used to develop a more flexible manufacturing process for their products, also became
involved in this informal project. They began to experiment with various materials, slurries and
manufacturing techniques, first using their 15% exploration time and later with the help of two
Genesis Grants. It was then that they realized that, in addition to serving as a new material for use
in aircrafts, the technology might also be a new way to make high-performance coated abrasives.
Their manager, In Sun Hong, recalled:
After they worked a bit (using their 15% time), they told me this was a promising technology. We had a
meeting. I looked at it and I said, ‘Yeah’. I had been in the abrasive world long enough to recognize that
‘Hey, this is something we need. Let’s look further at it.’
In 1991, Hong led this small team of researchers, making presentations to corporate executives
and securing their support. Due to these efforts, the project secured funding under the Pacing
Program, a corporate funding program to increase the pace of development for high potential ideas.
Stanley Collins, who was elected the technical leader of this Pacing project recalled:
We held an off-campus meeting to kick off the team. At that meeting, there were 2 dozen people representing
9 different laboratories around the corporation. Some of the operating divisions were also involved in the
program, so we had representatives from marketing. We also had engineering representatives, and most of
the disciplines that you’d think would be needed to start a successful business were on board and present
at the original planning meetings and participated in trying to plan the project.
As new expertise and technologies became salient, the team brought in people from other
areas. For instance, microreplication experts from the Optics Technology Center became key
advisors and people from other divisions, such as Dental Products, who had expertise in light cur-
ing, joined the team. Even as the team experimented with different slurries and curing techniques,
they made progress by developing a commercially viable manufacturing process and cataloging
their journey to serve as both a shared memory for the team and a socialization tool for new proj-
ect hires. A retired manufacturing line from the Traffic Control Materials division became their
testing ground. In 1993, they succeeded in building the first pilot plant within the Abrasives divi-
sion, allowing them to build prototypes and run experiments more quickly, thereby accelerating
their progress.
The emerging team did not know how to test a new product that was radically different from
conventional abrasives. This was a challenge. Darrell Dippon, who later took over as the project
leader, explained: ‘What we found was that the team would get very excited by what they had cre-
ated, but when they tested it with the customer, it didn’t perform nearly as well.’
Soon, a technical service engineer on the team found that he could simulate customer conditions
at a customer center within the division, and devised techniques to test the new abrasive. Once
reliability and performance of the new abrasive improved, the team began testing the product on-
site with potential customers to determine how it performed under real-life conditions. Dippon
754 Organization Studies 32(6)
and facilities from other divisions to begin producing and delivering products to customers without
investing significantly in infrastructure at the beginning.
These early attempts demonstrated that their product’s design was not optimal for the new
application. Sandy Cobb explained the problem they confronted: ‘The film we had was very
coarse and there was terrible interference even though it made the display brighter.’ Cobb and his
colleagues were able to solve the problem after some experimentation, but it became apparent to
them that the cosmetic quality required for the film far exceeded their capability to produce it in
high volume. Indeed, by 1994, they were finding it difficult to schedule production at a sister
division’s facility. So, with help from the MR Technology Center, they developed a new produc-
tion process for the optical film and scaled up their production capabilities. Cobb observed:
What also made it very successful was the fact that we had the accumulated expertise over all these years.
We also had the patents and intellectual property. It took a tremendous amount of marketing on our part
and it took some very brilliant people along that line, very determined people to sell into a market that was
99% initially in Japan.
The resultant film – BEF – enhanced the brightness of backlit flat panel displays by 50% to
100%, extended the life of laptop batteries, and was rated by Compaq among the top eight innova-
tions associated with laptop computers. Even as BEF was transforming into a blockbuster product,
the division was already launching a second generation of brightness-enhancing films. As Andy
Wong, the division’s General Manager explained, the division would not be satisfied with simply
meeting 3M’s 30% stretch goal: ‘Now, we also have the 3M Dual Brightness Enhancement Film
(DBEF). It is based upon a new technology platform beyond microreplication. So the innovation
and renewal process continues.’
Thus, we see in the BEF journey how the various practices in place at 3M enabled the company
to wait, prepare and finally leverage an opportunity when it presented itself. For instance, the 15%
exploration time, bootlegging and Genesis Grants made it possible for the scientists to follow up
on ideas and to experiment with different applications even when no new products were readily
apparent and the division itself was languishing. Even experiments that did not pan out played
important roles. They led to intellectual property positions, knowledge on problems and possibili-
ties, and the generation of a toolkit of techniques and processes. The Optics Technology Center
(later, the MR Technology Center) focused all of these accumulated efforts toward augmenting the
MR technology platform until the time was right for leveraging these assets into viable products.
These practices enabled the Optical Systems division to ‘stretch time out’ until the market applica-
tion materialized.
Aside from the ability to deal with and even benefit from such temporal complexity, we also
see the practices that facilitated productive relational dynamics. For instance, the ability to bring
together experts from across the corporation enabled cross-fertilization, thereby ensuring the
creation of novel processes and techniques. The ability to make use of the resources from other
divisions ensured that projects could proceed without investing in new expertise or fresh
resources. In fact, Paul Guehler noted that, at times, the Optical Systems division had over 150
people from across 3M working on the BEF and DBEF projects at no cost to the division.
Mindful engagement with customers eventually resulted in a match between 3M’s technology
capabilities and unarticulated customer needs, manifest in a continuing stream of products.
Finally, we see simple rules being adjusted to suit the dynamic context, as when the Optical
Systems division planned to outperform 3M’s 30% stretch goal to keep pace with the rapidly
evolving markets that it had entered.
Garud et al. 755
The Trizact Innovation Journey
In contrast to the BEF journey, the development of the Trizact abrasive owed its origins in the late
1980s not to a scientist or researcher, but to a service technician with a passion for aircraft and flying.
This person thought that the microreplicated rivet material used in yachts could potentially reduce
fuel consumption if it were used in aircraft. The service technician started discussing his idea with
people involved in the microreplicated rivet project and those with expertise in MR technology.
A small team from the Abrasives division, which was exploring whether the MR technology
could be used to develop a more flexible manufacturing process for their products, also became
involved in this informal project. They began to experiment with various materials, slurries and
manufacturing techniques, first using their 15% exploration time and later with the help of two
Genesis Grants. It was then that they realized that, in addition to serving as a new material for use
in aircrafts, the technology might also be a new way to make high-performance coated abrasives.
Their manager, In Sun Hong, recalled:
After they worked a bit (using their 15% time), they told me this was a promising technology. We had a
meeting. I looked at it and I said, ‘Yeah’. I had been in the abrasive world long enough to recognize that
‘Hey, this is something we need. Let’s look further at it.’
In 1991, Hong led this small team of researchers, making presentations to corporate executives
and securing their support. Due to these efforts, the project secured funding under the Pacing
Program, a corporate funding program to increase the pace of development for high potential ideas.
Stanley Collins, who was elected the technical leader of this Pacing project recalled:
We held an off-campus meeting to kick off the team. At that meeting, there were 2 dozen people representing
9 different laboratories around the corporation. Some of the operating divisions were also involved in the
program, so we had representatives from marketing. We also had engineering representatives, and most of
the disciplines that you’d think would be needed to start a successful business were on board and present
at the original planning meetings and participated in trying to plan the project.
As new expertise and technologies became salient, the team brought in people from other
areas. For instance, microreplication experts from the Optics Technology Center became key
advisors and people from other divisions, such as Dental Products, who had expertise in light cur-
ing, joined the team. Even as the team experimented with different slurries and curing techniques,
they made progress by developing a commercially viable manufacturing process and cataloging
their journey to serve as both a shared memory for the team and a socialization tool for new proj-
ect hires. A retired manufacturing line from the Traffic Control Materials division became their
testing ground. In 1993, they succeeded in building the first pilot plant within the Abrasives divi-
sion, allowing them to build prototypes and run experiments more quickly, thereby accelerating
their progress.
The emerging team did not know how to test a new product that was radically different from
conventional abrasives. This was a challenge. Darrell Dippon, who later took over as the project
leader, explained: ‘What we found was that the team would get very excited by what they had cre-
ated, but when they tested it with the customer, it didn’t perform nearly as well.’
Soon, a technical service engineer on the team found that he could simulate customer conditions
at a customer center within the division, and devised techniques to test the new abrasive. Once
reliability and performance of the new abrasive improved, the team began testing the product on-
site with potential customers to determine how it performed under real-life conditions. Dippon
756 Organization Studies 32(6)
recalled that they used results from these tests to refine the manufacturing process until 1995, when
they built a manufacturing plant to produce the new abrasive in quantity.
Simultaneously, they also began developing other new products. Each new product necessitated
further innovations. For each innovation, Dippon related how they applied what they had learned
from their earlier projects: ‘In most cases, just looking at the past probably completes 80 to 90% of
the product design. It’s usually the last 10 to 20% where the innovation comes in.’
Surprisingly, when they launched the new abrasive they encountered resistance from customers.
Collins explained:
The new abrasive we made doesn’t look the same and cannot be used in the same manner as a conventional
abrasive. You have to reduce the pressure when pushing on the abrasive or you’ll wear it out very quickly
and will not experience the value it provides when you use it properly. It required quite an effort to
convince the customer to change the way they use sandpaper.
Over time, they realized that they had to use a different approach – what they called value selling –
to sell the new abrasive. Even with this new approach, it would take them nearly three years to
convince their customers to buy the new product.
In 1996, as attempts were being made to educate and convince customers, the Trizact project
secured funding under the newly established Pacing Plus program (an upgraded version of the
corporate Pacing Program). Under this program, a handful of high-potential product development
projects were offered corporate funding to hasten development and market introduction. This fund-
ing enabled them to refine the new abrasive and identify new applications. For instance, the divi-
sion spun off another Pacing Plus program with abrasives targeted at the silicon wafer industry.
Indeed, this application had the potential to generate a much bigger market than the first Trizact
abrasive product introduced for conventional abrasive applications. And, thus, 3M’s oldest divi-
sion was rejuvenated by the application of the MR platform.
In the Trizact journey, we notice a pattern that is similar to the one in the BEF journey. The 15%
exploration time, bootlegging and leveraging of accumulated expertise in the MR platform also
played key roles during the initial stages of the Trizact journey. So did the interactions among
diverse experts from different parts of the company. But we also identify new practices such as the
corporate Pacing Program (and later, the Pacing Plus program) implemented by 3M subsequent to
BEF’s introduction. As opposed to the 15% exploration time and Genesis Grants that enabled divi-
sions to stretch time out until a market materialized, these new practices allowed 3M to ‘compress
time’ and take advantage of short windows of market opportunity. In addition, we see the asynchro-
nies associated with innovation in the unanticipated market resistance to a potentially disruptive
product and in the need to develop new ways of selling to overcome such resistance. Finally, we
see the emergence of unanticipated and much larger market opportunities that continual experi-
mentation and development gave rise to.
Complexity Arrangements for Sustained Innovation
The BEF and Trizact journeys, both originating in 3M’s microreplication technology platform,
offer insights as to how organizations might sustain innovation. In this section, we highlight the
different kinds of complexity implicated in the two innovation journeys we studied and how differ-
ent combinations of practices at 3M (i.e., complexity arrangements), shaped these journeys over
time. Finally, we discuss how these arrangements, when enacted locally by 3M employees, afforded
them multiple agentic orientations simultaneously.
Garud et al. 757
Complex Innovation Processes
Consistent with prior findings, our research on the development of the MR platform and the BEF
and Trizact innovation journeys illustrates the different kinds of complexities inherent in innova-
tion processes. Relational complexity was evident in the many intersubjective processes through
which improvisation occurred as 3M employees, technologies, devices and prototypes continually
interacted (see Brown & Eisenhardt 1997; Schrage 2000; Thomke 2003; Tsoukas 2008 on the
importance of such processes). These relational dynamics were not unique to the two innovations
we studied but, instead, were reflective of how 3M itself operated. For instance, technology fairs
were used regularly by laboratories and technology centers to showcase emerging technologies.
Formal efforts to socialize new employees brought them into contact with people and technologies
distributed across 3M’s technology platforms and businesses very early in their careers. People
rotated between platforms and businesses, and cross-functional team meetings – sometimes includ-
ing people who were not directly involved – were the norm. In addition, the interactions of 3M
employees with external actors such as lead users, customers and those from industry, also were
integral to these processes.
Closely related to relational complexity is manifest complexity. Manifest complexity was appar-
ent in both the BEF and Trizact cases, as illustrated by the proliferation of patents, products, appli-
cations and emergent intermediary prototypes, tools and techniques as these journeys unfolded.
Each journey leveraged a number of pre-existing capabilities, intellectual property (IP) resources
and artifacts, while at the same time generating new capabilities, IP and artifacts for future
application.
In both journeys, regulative complexity was evident in the deployment of guidelines and rules
such as the 15% exploration time and the 30% stretch goal. We found that these rules were not only
ostensive, but they also were inherently performative (Latour 1986; Feldman & Pentland 2003).
For instance, the 30% stretch goal was reconstituted by 3M employees involved in the BEF project
because they confronted an environment that changed more rapidly than those faced by other parts
of 3M. Other ‘rules’ were similarly reinterpreted to suit different contexts. For instance, 3M
employees informed us that they frequently had to decide which guidelines to follow and which
ones to skip, depending on their respective contexts. According to Dr. Coyne, 3M’s SVP of R&D,
even the ‘15%’ in the 15% exploration option was not the critical part of the intended message –
that 3M employees had the discretion to use their time and the company’s slack resources to
explore new ideas.
Temporal complexity was exemplified by a different interpretation of the 15% exploration
option. Specifically, drawing on the two journeys and our interviews, it became apparent that the
15% option was not meant to stipulate a mechanistic allocation of 15% of every day, week or
month to experimentation. Instead, the option afforded 3M employees an ability to leverage ser-
endipitous moments – moments that cannot be scheduled by the clock or the calendar (Hassard
1996) – whenever they occurred. Here we can see how both chronos (clock driven time) and kairos
(moments ‘when the time is right’) are brought together (Rämö 1999; Orlikowski & Yates 2002).4
In addition, temporal complexity was manifest as diachronies in both journeys; what appeared to
be false-starts or dead-ends in real time served as the foundation for innovation over time. Temporal
asynchronies were also present, as in the initial lack of appropriate testing techniques in the case of
the Trizact abrasive, or the long wait for an appropriate light source in the case of BEF. In sum, the
innovation journeys clearly were not linear, although they may appear so when viewed retrospec-
tively or when interpreted through popular product development frameworks such as the stage gate
model (Cooper 2001).
756 Organization Studies 32(6)
recalled that they used results from these tests to refine the manufacturing process until 1995, when
they built a manufacturing plant to produce the new abrasive in quantity.
Simultaneously, they also began developing other new products. Each new product necessitated
further innovations. For each innovation, Dippon related how they applied what they had learned
from their earlier projects: ‘In most cases, just looking at the past probably completes 80 to 90% of
the product design. It’s usually the last 10 to 20% where the innovation comes in.’
Surprisingly, when they launched the new abrasive they encountered resistance from customers.
Collins explained:
The new abrasive we made doesn’t look the same and cannot be used in the same manner as a conventional
abrasive. You have to reduce the pressure when pushing on the abrasive or you’ll wear it out very quickly
and will not experience the value it provides when you use it properly. It required quite an effort to
convince the customer to change the way they use sandpaper.
Over time, they realized that they had to use a different approach – what they called value selling –
to sell the new abrasive. Even with this new approach, it would take them nearly three years to
convince their customers to buy the new product.
In 1996, as attempts were being made to educate and convince customers, the Trizact project
secured funding under the newly established Pacing Plus program (an upgraded version of the
corporate Pacing Program). Under this program, a handful of high-potential product development
projects were offered corporate funding to hasten development and market introduction. This fund-
ing enabled them to refine the new abrasive and identify new applications. For instance, the divi-
sion spun off another Pacing Plus program with abrasives targeted at the silicon wafer industry.
Indeed, this application had the potential to generate a much bigger market than the first Trizact
abrasive product introduced for conventional abrasive applications. And, thus, 3M’s oldest divi-
sion was rejuvenated by the application of the MR platform.
In the Trizact journey, we notice a pattern that is similar to the one in the BEF journey. The 15%
exploration time, bootlegging and leveraging of accumulated expertise in the MR platform also
played key roles during the initial stages of the Trizact journey. So did the interactions among
diverse experts from different parts of the company. But we also identify new practices such as the
corporate Pacing Program (and later, the Pacing Plus program) implemented by 3M subsequent to
BEF’s introduction. As opposed to the 15% exploration time and Genesis Grants that enabled divi-
sions to stretch time out until a market materialized, these new practices allowed 3M to ‘compress
time’ and take advantage of short windows of market opportunity. In addition, we see the asynchro-
nies associated with innovation in the unanticipated market resistance to a potentially disruptive
product and in the need to develop new ways of selling to overcome such resistance. Finally, we
see the emergence of unanticipated and much larger market opportunities that continual experi-
mentation and development gave rise to.
Complexity Arrangements for Sustained Innovation
The BEF and Trizact journeys, both originating in 3M’s microreplication technology platform,
offer insights as to how organizations might sustain innovation. In this section, we highlight the
different kinds of complexity implicated in the two innovation journeys we studied and how differ-
ent combinations of practices at 3M (i.e., complexity arrangements), shaped these journeys over
time. Finally, we discuss how these arrangements, when enacted locally by 3M employees, afforded
them multiple agentic orientations simultaneously.
Garud et al. 757
Complex Innovation Processes
Consistent with prior findings, our research on the development of the MR platform and the BEF
and Trizact innovation journeys illustrates the different kinds of complexities inherent in innova-
tion processes. Relational complexity was evident in the many intersubjective processes through
which improvisation occurred as 3M employees, technologies, devices and prototypes continually
interacted (see Brown & Eisenhardt 1997; Schrage 2000; Thomke 2003; Tsoukas 2008 on the
importance of such processes). These relational dynamics were not unique to the two innovations
we studied but, instead, were reflective of how 3M itself operated. For instance, technology fairs
were used regularly by laboratories and technology centers to showcase emerging technologies.
Formal efforts to socialize new employees brought them into contact with people and technologies
distributed across 3M’s technology platforms and businesses very early in their careers. People
rotated between platforms and businesses, and cross-functional team meetings – sometimes includ-
ing people who were not directly involved – were the norm. In addition, the interactions of 3M
employees with external actors such as lead users, customers and those from industry, also were
integral to these processes.
Closely related to relational complexity is manifest complexity. Manifest complexity was appar-
ent in both the BEF and Trizact cases, as illustrated by the proliferation of patents, products, appli-
cations and emergent intermediary prototypes, tools and techniques as these journeys unfolded.
Each journey leveraged a number of pre-existing capabilities, intellectual property (IP) resources
and artifacts, while at the same time generating new capabilities, IP and artifacts for future
application.
In both journeys, regulative complexity was evident in the deployment of guidelines and rules
such as the 15% exploration time and the 30% stretch goal. We found that these rules were not only
ostensive, but they also were inherently performative (Latour 1986; Feldman & Pentland 2003).
For instance, the 30% stretch goal was reconstituted by 3M employees involved in the BEF project
because they confronted an environment that changed more rapidly than those faced by other parts
of 3M. Other ‘rules’ were similarly reinterpreted to suit different contexts. For instance, 3M
employees informed us that they frequently had to decide which guidelines to follow and which
ones to skip, depending on their respective contexts. According to Dr. Coyne, 3M’s SVP of R&D,
even the ‘15%’ in the 15% exploration option was not the critical part of the intended message –
that 3M employees had the discretion to use their time and the company’s slack resources to
explore new ideas.
Temporal complexity was exemplified by a different interpretation of the 15% exploration
option. Specifically, drawing on the two journeys and our interviews, it became apparent that the
15% option was not meant to stipulate a mechanistic allocation of 15% of every day, week or
month to experimentation. Instead, the option afforded 3M employees an ability to leverage ser-
endipitous moments – moments that cannot be scheduled by the clock or the calendar (Hassard
1996) – whenever they occurred. Here we can see how both chronos (clock driven time) and kairos
(moments ‘when the time is right’) are brought together (Rämö 1999; Orlikowski & Yates 2002).4
In addition, temporal complexity was manifest as diachronies in both journeys; what appeared to
be false-starts or dead-ends in real time served as the foundation for innovation over time. Temporal
asynchronies were also present, as in the initial lack of appropriate testing techniques in the case of
the Trizact abrasive, or the long wait for an appropriate light source in the case of BEF. In sum, the
innovation journeys clearly were not linear, although they may appear so when viewed retrospec-
tively or when interpreted through popular product development frameworks such as the stage gate
model (Cooper 2001).
758 Organization Studies 32(6)
Complexity Arrangements
The implication of such complexities in innovation processes only deepens the puzzle: How might
an organization sustain such processes time and time again, given the considerable expenses and
uncertainties involved? One might conclude that the answer lies in dealing with each type of com-
plexity separately. We found just the opposite. In real time, the different types of complexity were
intertwined with one another. For instance, both innovation journeys required considerable
resources to undertake, but not every pathway panned out.
Who should sponsor such experimentation during the innovation journeys? At 3M, the corpora-
tion sponsored these journeys in multiple ways. A major portion of the considerable resources
needed for experimentation came not from business units, but from 3M as a corporate entity.
Informal practices such as the 15% option and bootlegging enabled 3M employees to tap these
corporate resources. In addition, more formal practices existed to help incubate nascent ideas (e.g.,
Genesis Grants) and to hasten the commercialization of ripe ideas (e.g., Pacing Plus). Together,
these complementary practices generated a corporation-wide economy of intellectual assets for 3M
to leverage through guidelines such as its 30% stretch goal.
What happened to the intermediary outcomes that emerged as these innovation journeys
unfolded? For instance, assets such as testing capabilities for early versions of the Trizact abra-
sive emerged in response to the needs of specific initiatives, whereas others such as the optical
lighting film (that later became BEF) emerged as outcomes of experimental efforts that did not
immediately come to fruition. At 3M, these intermediary insights and artifacts became integral
parts of technology platforms. The availability of these platforms enabled nascent ideas to ger-
minate and mature over time, instead of being abandoned as mistakes or dead-ends. Indeed, by
preserving intermediary outcomes as potentially valuable options, platforms enabled the organi-
zation to be ‘preadapted’ to an emergent future (Cattani 2005). The result was a cumulative roll-
ing up of experiences and, at the same time, a continual unrolling of fresh experimentation
(Bergson 2007 [1913]). In this sense, platforms served as both a medium for and an outcome of
action (Giddens 1984).
We conceptualize the different combinations of practices – manifest structure (e.g., prod-
ucts, patents and platforms), relational processes (e.g., interactions between people within and
across platforms and businesses), temporal dynamics (e.g., moments of serendipity enabled by
the 15% option) and regulative guidelines (e.g., 30% stretch objective) – that are activated at
various stages of an innovation journey at 3M as representing complexity arrangements. Such
a conceptualization allows us to appreciate a far more nuanced relationship between inventions
and innovations than has been noted in the literature (Ruttan 1959). No doubt, ideas need to be
taken from conceptualization to commercialization. However, the transformation process is
bound to produce a variety of emergent outcomes that may not have much immediate utility or
value. These intermediary outcomes can be combined later with the intermediary outcomes
from other innovation journeys resulting in radically new solutions to emergent problems, just
as 3M employees involved with Trizact and BEF leveraged knowledge and artifacts from the
past to progress.
In these observations, we can see a far more nuanced understanding of how time is implicated
in the arrangements at 3M. We already have referred to the notion of clock time as employed in
schedules and routines. In addition, we can see that the presence of technology platforms sug-
gests a recognition of a ‘time to wait’ – where future possibilities are preserved to be activated
at opportune moments if and when customer needs crystallize. Endogenizing time even further,
the 15% option suggests a ‘time in between’ – time when 3M employees can use the pockets of
Garud et al. 759
knowledge resident in platforms to experiment. These notions of time are connected by the
presence of innovation narratives that draw upon yet a different notion of time, what we label as
a ‘time across’ – where envisioned futures are shaped by what has already transpired making it
possible for 3M to engage in a series of ongoing translations in the present.
Agentic Orientations
How do these arrangements trigger the agentic orientations of the actors involved and what is
the epistemology that describes such agency? In addressing this question we were inspired by
Callon (2005), who suggested that these arrangements (combinations of practices) fundamen-
tally constitute agencies (the specific term that Callon used was agencements. For instance, the
15% exploration option and Genesis Grants, in combination with the dictum that ‘technology
belongs to the corporation’, made it possible for employees to add to 3M’s technology plat-
forms as they experimented in real time and also to benefit from the intellectual assets and
artifacts that had accumulated in these platforms over time. At the same time, the 15% option
could also be construed as having an 85% counterpart as its corollary. Along with the dictum that
‘products belong to the businesses’, this 85% counterpart to the exploration option ensured that a
different agentic orientation – an option to exploit – was simultaneously present. In other words,
these interwoven practices at 3M made it possible for schedule-driven and opportunity-driven
moments to serve as embedded complements, thereby activating multiple agentic orientations for
the actors involved.
March’s (1991) observations on the tension between ‘exploration’ and ‘exploitation’ suggest
that multiple agentic orientations may clash with one another. It is here that we see the role 3M
innovation narratives played in resolving this tension. Without them, employees could easily have
been overwhelmed by the need to deploy different agentic orientations to deal with a diversity of
products, patents and platforms. At 3M, such complexity was modulated through the use of narra-
tives of innovation that served as cultural mechanisms to translate insights from one situation to
another, and over time (Tsoukas & Hatch 2001; & Bartel & Garud 2009).
Narratives operate by preserving surface level details together with deeper level driving forces
(Taylor & Van Every 2000). Those who become engaged with a narrative may be attracted by its
surface-level details, but then play an active role in determining how the core driving forces (the
15% exploration option, for instance) apply to the specific situations that they confront (Ricoeur
1984). Consequently, narratives serve as key mechanisms for translating insights from one context
and time period to another (Czarniawska 1998).
Indeed, narratives serve as a connective tissue linking the past, the present and the future
(Ricoeur 1984; Tsoukas & Hatch 2001), and, in the process, activate an organizational memory
(Bartel & Garud 2009). The most apparent way innovation narratives help activate an organiza-
tional memory is through the use of retrospective narratives. At 3M, the many retrospective inno-
vation narratives afforded future generations of employees a memory of how prior innovations
had unfolded, including an appreciation of assets and resources that lay distributed across the
company.5 Prospective narratives, such as the business plan developed for BEF based on the
emergent laptop liquid crystal displays opportunity, were mechanisms underlying creative imagi-
nation (Lachmann 1986; Chiles, Tuggle, McMullen, Bierman & Greening 2010)6 which linked an
understanding of industry trends with a knowledge of relevant organizational assets and resources.
Real-time narratives (or what Boje 2001 calls ‘antenarratives’), such as the kick-off meeting for
the Trizact Pacing Program, enabled actors to generate action nets around prototypes and people
(Czarniawska 2008).
758 Organization Studies 32(6)
Complexity Arrangements
The implication of such complexities in innovation processes only deepens the puzzle: How might
an organization sustain such processes time and time again, given the considerable expenses and
uncertainties involved? One might conclude that the answer lies in dealing with each type of com-
plexity separately. We found just the opposite. In real time, the different types of complexity were
intertwined with one another. For instance, both innovation journeys required considerable
resources to undertake, but not every pathway panned out.
Who should sponsor such experimentation during the innovation journeys? At 3M, the corpora-
tion sponsored these journeys in multiple ways. A major portion of the considerable resources
needed for experimentation came not from business units, but from 3M as a corporate entity.
Informal practices such as the 15% option and bootlegging enabled 3M employees to tap these
corporate resources. In addition, more formal practices existed to help incubate nascent ideas (e.g.,
Genesis Grants) and to hasten the commercialization of ripe ideas (e.g., Pacing Plus). Together,
these complementary practices generated a corporation-wide economy of intellectual assets for 3M
to leverage through guidelines such as its 30% stretch goal.
What happened to the intermediary outcomes that emerged as these innovation journeys
unfolded? For instance, assets such as testing capabilities for early versions of the Trizact abra-
sive emerged in response to the needs of specific initiatives, whereas others such as the optical
lighting film (that later became BEF) emerged as outcomes of experimental efforts that did not
immediately come to fruition. At 3M, these intermediary insights and artifacts became integral
parts of technology platforms. The availability of these platforms enabled nascent ideas to ger-
minate and mature over time, instead of being abandoned as mistakes or dead-ends. Indeed, by
preserving intermediary outcomes as potentially valuable options, platforms enabled the organi-
zation to be ‘preadapted’ to an emergent future (Cattani 2005). The result was a cumulative roll-
ing up of experiences and, at the same time, a continual unrolling of fresh experimentation
(Bergson 2007 [1913]). In this sense, platforms served as both a medium for and an outcome of
action (Giddens 1984).
We conceptualize the different combinations of practices – manifest structure (e.g., prod-
ucts, patents and platforms), relational processes (e.g., interactions between people within and
across platforms and businesses), temporal dynamics (e.g., moments of serendipity enabled by
the 15% option) and regulative guidelines (e.g., 30% stretch objective) – that are activated at
various stages of an innovation journey at 3M as representing complexity arrangements. Such
a conceptualization allows us to appreciate a far more nuanced relationship between inventions
and innovations than has been noted in the literature (Ruttan 1959). No doubt, ideas need to be
taken from conceptualization to commercialization. However, the transformation process is
bound to produce a variety of emergent outcomes that may not have much immediate utility or
value. These intermediary outcomes can be combined later with the intermediary outcomes
from other innovation journeys resulting in radically new solutions to emergent problems, just
as 3M employees involved with Trizact and BEF leveraged knowledge and artifacts from the
past to progress.
In these observations, we can see a far more nuanced understanding of how time is implicated
in the arrangements at 3M. We already have referred to the notion of clock time as employed in
schedules and routines. In addition, we can see that the presence of technology platforms sug-
gests a recognition of a ‘time to wait’ – where future possibilities are preserved to be activated
at opportune moments if and when customer needs crystallize. Endogenizing time even further,
the 15% option suggests a ‘time in between’ – time when 3M employees can use the pockets of
Garud et al. 759
knowledge resident in platforms to experiment. These notions of time are connected by the
presence of innovation narratives that draw upon yet a different notion of time, what we label as
a ‘time across’ – where envisioned futures are shaped by what has already transpired making it
possible for 3M to engage in a series of ongoing translations in the present.
Agentic Orientations
How do these arrangements trigger the agentic orientations of the actors involved and what is
the epistemology that describes such agency? In addressing this question we were inspired by
Callon (2005), who suggested that these arrangements (combinations of practices) fundamen-
tally constitute agencies (the specific term that Callon used was agencements. For instance, the
15% exploration option and Genesis Grants, in combination with the dictum that ‘technology
belongs to the corporation’, made it possible for employees to add to 3M’s technology plat-
forms as they experimented in real time and also to benefit from the intellectual assets and
artifacts that had accumulated in these platforms over time. At the same time, the 15% option
could also be construed as having an 85% counterpart as its corollary. Along with the dictum that
‘products belong to the businesses’, this 85% counterpart to the exploration option ensured that a
different agentic orientation – an option to exploit – was simultaneously present. In other words,
these interwoven practices at 3M made it possible for schedule-driven and opportunity-driven
moments to serve as embedded complements, thereby activating multiple agentic orientations for
the actors involved.
March’s (1991) observations on the tension between ‘exploration’ and ‘exploitation’ suggest
that multiple agentic orientations may clash with one another. It is here that we see the role 3M
innovation narratives played in resolving this tension. Without them, employees could easily have
been overwhelmed by the need to deploy different agentic orientations to deal with a diversity of
products, patents and platforms. At 3M, such complexity was modulated through the use of narra-
tives of innovation that served as cultural mechanisms to translate insights from one situation to
another, and over time (Tsoukas & Hatch 2001; & Bartel & Garud 2009).
Narratives operate by preserving surface level details together with deeper level driving forces
(Taylor & Van Every 2000). Those who become engaged with a narrative may be attracted by its
surface-level details, but then play an active role in determining how the core driving forces (the
15% exploration option, for instance) apply to the specific situations that they confront (Ricoeur
1984). Consequently, narratives serve as key mechanisms for translating insights from one context
and time period to another (Czarniawska 1998).
Indeed, narratives serve as a connective tissue linking the past, the present and the future
(Ricoeur 1984; Tsoukas & Hatch 2001), and, in the process, activate an organizational memory
(Bartel & Garud 2009). The most apparent way innovation narratives help activate an organiza-
tional memory is through the use of retrospective narratives. At 3M, the many retrospective inno-
vation narratives afforded future generations of employees a memory of how prior innovations
had unfolded, including an appreciation of assets and resources that lay distributed across the
company.5 Prospective narratives, such as the business plan developed for BEF based on the
emergent laptop liquid crystal displays opportunity, were mechanisms underlying creative imagi-
nation (Lachmann 1986; Chiles, Tuggle, McMullen, Bierman & Greening 2010)6 which linked an
understanding of industry trends with a knowledge of relevant organizational assets and resources.
Real-time narratives (or what Boje 2001 calls ‘antenarratives’), such as the kick-off meeting for
the Trizact Pacing Program, enabled actors to generate action nets around prototypes and people
(Czarniawska 2008).
760 Organization Studies 32(6)
We can see from the above discussion how the memory that is activated through narratives may
be similar to the concept of transactive memory (Wegner 1987; Hollingshead 1998; Moreland
1999). Transactive memory is a shared system for encoding, storing, and retrieving information
based on intersubjective processes (Wegner 1987; Wegner, Erber & Raymond 1991). In more
recent uses of the term, it has come to mean a social memory of ‘who knows what’ (Moreland
1999). From this perspective, the continual interactions among people, technologies, platforms and
divisions afforded 3M employees such a memory to tap into expertise and other resources that lay
distributed throughout the organization.
At the same time, at 3M, narratives constituted a memory that was far more generative than the
one afforded by traditional notions of transactive memory. Ongoing interaction and dialogue
between employees within and across platforms – a kind of institutionalized yet reflexive dialogi-
cality (Tsoukas 2009) – resulted in the emergence of new insights and frames for action (Sawyer
2003; see also Hargadon & Sutton 1997). In addition, several 3M employees observed that innova-
tion requires the cultivation of foresight (see Garud, Nayyar & Shapira 1997; Tsoukas & Shepherd
2004). For them, this meant gaining an appreciation of future technology, industry and market
trends. Such foresight, in turn, resulted in the mobilization of specific elements of 3M’s past in
productive ways. In other words, besides past memories or real-time dialogical processes generat-
ing new insights, we saw temporal agency operating the other way around as well. Perspectives on
the future also triggered specific dialogical processes in the present and mobilized the past in spe-
cific ways (Mouritsen & Dechow 2001).
In sum, the complexity arrangements at 3M activated multiple agentic orientations simulta-
neously. Agency was shaped by all of the practices in place at 3M – by the myriad products,
artifacts and actors, by the relational processes that were spawned, by the temporal dynamics
that were implicated in any innovation journey, and by the mindful application of guidelines
that shaped the behavior of the actors involved. Narratives of innovation helped endogenize
these practices in such a way that innovation complexity was not dampened, but instead, har-
nessed in productive ways. Thereby, creativity and serendipity became a part and parcel of
engaged and informed work, during which employees experimented with what they were doing,
and in the process generated new insights (see Beatty & Torbert 2003 on the false duality of
work and leisure).
Conclusion
We began this paper by highlighting the challenges that organizations confront in sustaining inno-
vation. These challenges arise because of the complexities inherent in innovation, as manifest in
the proliferation of outcomes that emerge through ongoing interactions (among actors, artifacts
and practices) regulated by organizational guidelines. Innovation complexity is also apparent in the
temporal dynamics that give rise to false-starts, dead-ends and serendipitous moments.
Our description of two of the innovation journeys at 3M Corporation vividly illustrated the
arrangements in place to harness complexity. It also demonstrated how 3M employees experienced
and enacted complexity arrangements as the innovation journeys unfolded. At the beginning, we
had expected to find a number of complexity arrangements, each addressing a specific kind of
complexity. Instead, we found an intertwined set of arrangements capable of simultaneously
addressing different complexities as they were experienced during innovation journeys. We found
that 3M was able to interweave actors, artifacts and practices over time, allowing for productive
nonlinear innovation dynamics to unfold. Opportunities, implications and judgments collided;
Garud et al. 761
favorable moments became endogenous. Ultimately, by organizing itself to create, cultivate and
exploit favorable moments, 3M was able both to make its own luck and to sense when the time was
right. 3M’s approach to organizing preserved the complexity fundamental to innovation while
harnessing it for productive purposes.
Upon further analysis, we found how these intertwined complexity arrangements activated
different agentic orientations simultaneously. For instance, kairos-driven moments of serendip-
ity did not lie outside or apart from chronos-driven moments of routine work; in fact, they were
created in and through those moments. Enabling these multiple agentic orientations was the
presence of an organizational memory, with narratives of innovation playing a particularly
generative role. These narratives helped endogenize complexity by plotting patterns of interac-
tions into real-time, retrospective and prospective accounts. Moreover, narratives served as
devices for translating practices from one domain to another through a process of ‘generative
imitation’ (Tarde 1903).
These insights from our exploration of 3M – that organizing occurs at the intersection of mul-
tiple complexity arrangements and that actors can simultaneously embrace multiple agentic orien-
tations – can help address several tensions discussed in the innovation literature. For instance,
although new ideas by themselves are of little value unless they are commercialized, the distinction
between invention and innovation can now be understood in a far more nuanced manner (Ruttan
1959). Specifically, inventions that emerge during serendipitous moments can accumulate and be
maintained in technology platforms to become solutions to problems in the future. As a conse-
quence, even ideas labeled as ‘mistakes’ in real time can play a role in generating serendipitous
discoveries in the future.
Another tension discussed in the innovation literature is one between exploration and exploita-
tion (March 1991; Benner & Tushman 2003). The potential for interwoven complexity arrange-
ments to simultaneously activate different agentic orientations suggests how it might be possible
for actors to explore even as they exploit. The presence of a generative memory, constituted in part
by a narrative infrastructure, only enhances such possibilities. In doing so, unfolding innovation
journeys are connected to organization-wide resources by overcoming illegitimacy challenges and
other barriers to innovation discussed in the innovation literature (e.g., Dougherty & Heller 1994;
Dougherty & Hardy 1996).
These observations, though, have to be placed in the context of our research site and the meth-
ods that we adopted. We studied how one large diversified company was able to sustain innova-
tions that had the potential to change the very basis of competition in its markets. Our objective
was to provide an analytical narrative that offers readers the basis for generating insights relevant
to their own contexts. This analytical narrative is clearly bounded and shaped by the theoretical and
empirical materials that we have built upon. Accordingly, future research would need to sharpen
these insights by establishing appropriate boundary conditions.
Indeed, our research opens up a number of unanswered questions for future research. For
instance, would we find a different set of complexity arrangements in companies that are focused
on incremental or architectural innovations (see Henderson & Clark 1990 for a taxonomy of inno-
vation)? What alternative mechanisms might be used to cross the divide between chronos and
kairos? What kinds of arrangements (such as digital infrastructures; see Bowker & Star 1991)
might facilitate generative memories? What kinds of complexity arrangements may be relevant
when we consider alternative governance modes (such as markets, networks and communities)
which increasingly drive innovations (Chesbrough 2003)? Our study offers a basis for exploring
these questions in the future.
760 Organization Studies 32(6)
We can see from the above discussion how the memory that is activated through narratives may
be similar to the concept of transactive memory (Wegner 1987; Hollingshead 1998; Moreland
1999). Transactive memory is a shared system for encoding, storing, and retrieving information
based on intersubjective processes (Wegner 1987; Wegner, Erber & Raymond 1991). In more
recent uses of the term, it has come to mean a social memory of ‘who knows what’ (Moreland
1999). From this perspective, the continual interactions among people, technologies, platforms and
divisions afforded 3M employees such a memory to tap into expertise and other resources that lay
distributed throughout the organization.
At the same time, at 3M, narratives constituted a memory that was far more generative than the
one afforded by traditional notions of transactive memory. Ongoing interaction and dialogue
between employees within and across platforms – a kind of institutionalized yet reflexive dialogi-
cality (Tsoukas 2009) – resulted in the emergence of new insights and frames for action (Sawyer
2003; see also Hargadon & Sutton 1997). In addition, several 3M employees observed that innova-
tion requires the cultivation of foresight (see Garud, Nayyar & Shapira 1997; Tsoukas & Shepherd
2004). For them, this meant gaining an appreciation of future technology, industry and market
trends. Such foresight, in turn, resulted in the mobilization of specific elements of 3M’s past in
productive ways. In other words, besides past memories or real-time dialogical processes generat-
ing new insights, we saw temporal agency operating the other way around as well. Perspectives on
the future also triggered specific dialogical processes in the present and mobilized the past in spe-
cific ways (Mouritsen & Dechow 2001).
In sum, the complexity arrangements at 3M activated multiple agentic orientations simulta-
neously. Agency was shaped by all of the practices in place at 3M – by the myriad products,
artifacts and actors, by the relational processes that were spawned, by the temporal dynamics
that were implicated in any innovation journey, and by the mindful application of guidelines
that shaped the behavior of the actors involved. Narratives of innovation helped endogenize
these practices in such a way that innovation complexity was not dampened, but instead, har-
nessed in productive ways. Thereby, creativity and serendipity became a part and parcel of
engaged and informed work, during which employees experimented with what they were doing,
and in the process generated new insights (see Beatty & Torbert 2003 on the false duality of
work and leisure).
Conclusion
We began this paper by highlighting the challenges that organizations confront in sustaining inno-
vation. These challenges arise because of the complexities inherent in innovation, as manifest in
the proliferation of outcomes that emerge through ongoing interactions (among actors, artifacts
and practices) regulated by organizational guidelines. Innovation complexity is also apparent in the
temporal dynamics that give rise to false-starts, dead-ends and serendipitous moments.
Our description of two of the innovation journeys at 3M Corporation vividly illustrated the
arrangements in place to harness complexity. It also demonstrated how 3M employees experienced
and enacted complexity arrangements as the innovation journeys unfolded. At the beginning, we
had expected to find a number of complexity arrangements, each addressing a specific kind of
complexity. Instead, we found an intertwined set of arrangements capable of simultaneously
addressing different complexities as they were experienced during innovation journeys. We found
that 3M was able to interweave actors, artifacts and practices over time, allowing for productive
nonlinear innovation dynamics to unfold. Opportunities, implications and judgments collided;
Garud et al. 761
favorable moments became endogenous. Ultimately, by organizing itself to create, cultivate and
exploit favorable moments, 3M was able both to make its own luck and to sense when the time was
right. 3M’s approach to organizing preserved the complexity fundamental to innovation while
harnessing it for productive purposes.
Upon further analysis, we found how these intertwined complexity arrangements activated
different agentic orientations simultaneously. For instance, kairos-driven moments of serendip-
ity did not lie outside or apart from chronos-driven moments of routine work; in fact, they were
created in and through those moments. Enabling these multiple agentic orientations was the
presence of an organizational memory, with narratives of innovation playing a particularly
generative role. These narratives helped endogenize complexity by plotting patterns of interac-
tions into real-time, retrospective and prospective accounts. Moreover, narratives served as
devices for translating practices from one domain to another through a process of ‘generative
imitation’ (Tarde 1903).
These insights from our exploration of 3M – that organizing occurs at the intersection of mul-
tiple complexity arrangements and that actors can simultaneously embrace multiple agentic orien-
tations – can help address several tensions discussed in the innovation literature. For instance,
although new ideas by themselves are of little value unless they are commercialized, the distinction
between invention and innovation can now be understood in a far more nuanced manner (Ruttan
1959). Specifically, inventions that emerge during serendipitous moments can accumulate and be
maintained in technology platforms to become solutions to problems in the future. As a conse-
quence, even ideas labeled as ‘mistakes’ in real time can play a role in generating serendipitous
discoveries in the future.
Another tension discussed in the innovation literature is one between exploration and exploita-
tion (March 1991; Benner & Tushman 2003). The potential for interwoven complexity arrange-
ments to simultaneously activate different agentic orientations suggests how it might be possible
for actors to explore even as they exploit. The presence of a generative memory, constituted in part
by a narrative infrastructure, only enhances such possibilities. In doing so, unfolding innovation
journeys are connected to organization-wide resources by overcoming illegitimacy challenges and
other barriers to innovation discussed in the innovation literature (e.g., Dougherty & Heller 1994;
Dougherty & Hardy 1996).
These observations, though, have to be placed in the context of our research site and the meth-
ods that we adopted. We studied how one large diversified company was able to sustain innova-
tions that had the potential to change the very basis of competition in its markets. Our objective
was to provide an analytical narrative that offers readers the basis for generating insights relevant
to their own contexts. This analytical narrative is clearly bounded and shaped by the theoretical and
empirical materials that we have built upon. Accordingly, future research would need to sharpen
these insights by establishing appropriate boundary conditions.
Indeed, our research opens up a number of unanswered questions for future research. For
instance, would we find a different set of complexity arrangements in companies that are focused
on incremental or architectural innovations (see Henderson & Clark 1990 for a taxonomy of inno-
vation)? What alternative mechanisms might be used to cross the divide between chronos and
kairos? What kinds of arrangements (such as digital infrastructures; see Bowker & Star 1991)
might facilitate generative memories? What kinds of complexity arrangements may be relevant
when we consider alternative governance modes (such as markets, networks and communities)
which increasingly drive innovations (Chesbrough 2003)? Our study offers a basis for exploring
these questions in the future.
762 Organization Studies 32(6)
Notes
Authors, each of whom have contributed significantly to this paper, are listed in alphabetical order. We thank
the many people at 3M, especially Dr. William Coyne, who shared freely with us their experiences and insights
on how the company is organized for sustained innovation. We also thank Roger Dunbar, Peter Karnøe and
Andy Van de Ven, who have served as discussion partners in our journey, and Kara Gehman for her editorial
assistance. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2008 Organization Studies Summer Workshop
and the 2009 Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Hari Tsoukas and two anonymous reviewers for
Organization Studies offered critical comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper and helped us
to refine our arguments and contributions to the literature.
1 In Greek mythology, Kairos was God of the favorable moment (Rämö 1999).
2 The term ‘arrangements’ is intended to be an accessible translation of agencements, a French term that
Callon (2005) used to denote the framings of agencies, materials and calculative devices constitutive of
sociotechnical worlds.
3 Six Sigma is an approach used by organizations to minimize process variations, inefficiencies and slack
through statistical analysis and control of operations.
4 Indeed, the reactions of 3M employees to the Six Sigma initiatives that McNerney imported from General
Electric suggest that an unrelenting emphasis on schedules can end up diminishing the dynamics that
make opportune moments possible.
5 A content analysis of 17 narratives from 3M’s Chronicle of innovations booklet highlighted themes such
as the ways in which intrapreneurs had stumbled onto discoveries, outsmarted managers, cleverly reinter-
preted rules to pursue projects, and used the 15% exploration option to bootleg company-wide resources.
These memes generated an institutional memory (Douglas 1986), providing the cultural codes (Swidler
1986) that employees used to modulate their own complex behaviors.
6 Our position is a bit different from the one articulated by Chiles et al. (2010). Even though we acknowl-
edge the importance of creative imagination, we consider this to be: (1) part of a relational process in
which several heterogeneous elements (social and material) are implicated, and (2) one in which the past
plays as much of a role as the present in the imagination process.
References
3M (2002). A century of innovation: The 3M story. St Paul, MN: 3M Company.
Ancona, Deborah G., & Chee Leong Chong (1996). Entrainment: Pace, cycle, and rhythm in organizational
behavior. Research in Organizational Behavior, 18, 251–284.
Anderson, Philip (1999). Complexity theory and organization science. Organization Science, 10, 216–232.
Ansari, Shahzad, & Garud, Raghu (2009). Intergenerational transitions in sociotechnical systems: The case of
mobile communications. Research Policy, 38, 382–392.
Axelrod, Robert, & Cohen, Michael D. (1999). Harnessing complexity. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Barnett, Michael L. (2008). An attention-based view of real options reasoning. Academy of Management
Review, 33, 606.
Bartel, Caroline A., & Garud, Raghu (2003). Adaptive abduction as a mechanism for generalizing from nar-
ratives. In M. Easterby-Smith & M.A. Lyles (Eds.), Handbook of organizational learning and knowledge
(pp. 324–342). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Bartel, Caroline A., & Garud, Raghu (2009). The role of narratives in sustaining organizational innovation.
Organization Science, 20, 107–117.
Beatty, Joy E., & Torbert, William R. (2003). The false duality of work and leisure. Journal of Management
Inquiry, 12, 239–252.
Benner, Mary J., & Tushman, Michael L. (2003). Exploitation, exploration, and process management: The
productivity dilemma revisited. Academy of Management Review, 28, 238–256.
Bergson, Henri (2007 [1913]). An introduction to metaphysics. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Black, Sam (2010). LCD films help 3M to record profits; Firm boosts 2010 guidance. Minneapolis St. Paul
Business Journal, Jan. 28.
Garud et al. 763
Bluedorn, Allen C. (2002). The human organization of time. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Boisot, Max, & Child, John (1999). Organizations as adaptive systems in complex environments: The case of
China. Organization Science, 10, 237–252.
Boje, David M. (2001). Narrative methods for organizational and communication research. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.
Boston Consulting Group (2009). Innovation: Making hard decisions in the downturn. Boston, MA.
Bowker, Geoffrey C., & Star, Susan L. (1991). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Brown, Shona L., & Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. (1997). The art of continuous change: Linking complexity
theory and time-paced evolution in relentlessly shifting organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly,
42, 1–34.
Bruner, Jerome (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Buderi, Robert (2000). Companies squeeze the patent pipeline. Technology Review, 103, 82–93.
Burgelman, Robert A. (1983). A process model of internal corporate venturing in the diversified major firm.
Administrative Science Quarterly, 28, 223–244.
Burnes, Bernard (2005). Complexity theories and organizational change. International Journal of Management
Reviews, 7, 73–90.
Callon, Michel (1987). Society in the making: The study of technology as a tool for sociological analysis. In
W.E. Bijker, T.P. Hughes & T.J. Pinch (Eds.), Social construction of technological systems (pp. 83–103).
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Callon, Michel (2005). Why virtualism paves the way to political impotence. Economic Sociology, 6, 3–20.
Cattani, Gino (2005). Preadaptation, firm heterogeneity, and technological performance: A study on the evo-
lution of fiber optics, 1970–1995. Organization Science, 16, 563–580.
Chesbrough, Henry (2003). Open innovation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Chiles, Todd H., Bluedorn, Allen C., & Gupta, Vishal K. (2007). Beyond creative destruction and entrepre-
neurial discovery: A radical Austrian approach to entrepreneurship. Organization Studies, 28, 467–493.
Chiles, Todd H., Meyer, Alan D., & Hench, Thomas J. (2004). Organizational emergence: The origin and
transformation of Branson, Missouri’s musical theaters. Organization Science, 15, 499–519.
Chiles, Todd H., Tuggle, Christopher S., McMullen, Jeffery S., Bierman, Leonard, & Greening, Daniel W.
(2010). Dynamic creation: Extending the radical Austrian approach to entrepreneurship. Organization
Studies, 31, 7–46.
Christensen, Clayton M. (1997). The innovator’s dilemma. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Clark, Peter (1990). Chronological codes and organizational analysis. In J. Hassard & D. Pym (Eds.), The
theory and philosophy of organizations (pp. 137–163). New York, NY: Routledge.
Cooper, Robert Gravlin (2001). Winning at new products, 3rd edition. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Cowan, George A., Pines, David, & Meltzer, David Elliott (1994). Complexity: Metaphors, models, and real-
ity. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Coyne, William E. (1996). ‘Building a tradition of innovation.’ United Kingdom Department of Trade &
Industry Innovation Lecture. London.
Cunha, Miguel Pina e (2004). Time traveling: Organizational foresight as temporal reflexivity. In H. Tsoukas
& J. Shepherd (Eds.), Managing the future: Foresight in the knowledge economy (pp. 133–150). Malden,
MA: Blackwell.
Cyert, Richard M., & March, James G. (1963). A behavioral theory of the firm. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall.
Czarniawska, Barbara (1998). A narrative approach to organization studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Czarniawska, Barbara (2008). A theory of organizing. Northampton, MA: Elgar.
Daley, Will (2009). R&D ensures ‘prosperity of the fittest’. BusinessWeek, Dec. 23.
Davis, Jason P., Eisenhardt, Kathleen M., & Bingham, Christopher B. (2009). Complexity theory, market
dynamism, and the strategy of simple rules. Administrative Science Quarterly, 54, 413–452.
Dew, Nicholas (2009). Serendipity in entrepreneurship. Organization Studies, 30: 735–753.
Dooley, Kevin J. (1997). A complex adaptive systems model of organization change. Nonlinear Dynamics,
Psychology, & Life Sciences, 1, 69–97.
762 Organization Studies 32(6)
Notes
Authors, each of whom have contributed significantly to this paper, are listed in alphabetical order. We thank
the many people at 3M, especially Dr. William Coyne, who shared freely with us their experiences and insights
on how the company is organized for sustained innovation. We also thank Roger Dunbar, Peter Karnøe and
Andy Van de Ven, who have served as discussion partners in our journey, and Kara Gehman for her editorial
assistance. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2008 Organization Studies Summer Workshop
and the 2009 Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Hari Tsoukas and two anonymous reviewers for
Organization Studies offered critical comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper and helped us
to refine our arguments and contributions to the literature.
1 In Greek mythology, Kairos was God of the favorable moment (Rämö 1999).
2 The term ‘arrangements’ is intended to be an accessible translation of agencements, a French term that
Callon (2005) used to denote the framings of agencies, materials and calculative devices constitutive of
sociotechnical worlds.
3 Six Sigma is an approach used by organizations to minimize process variations, inefficiencies and slack
through statistical analysis and control of operations.
4 Indeed, the reactions of 3M employees to the Six Sigma initiatives that McNerney imported from General
Electric suggest that an unrelenting emphasis on schedules can end up diminishing the dynamics that
make opportune moments possible.
5 A content analysis of 17 narratives from 3M’s Chronicle of innovations booklet highlighted themes such
as the ways in which intrapreneurs had stumbled onto discoveries, outsmarted managers, cleverly reinter-
preted rules to pursue projects, and used the 15% exploration option to bootleg company-wide resources.
These memes generated an institutional memory (Douglas 1986), providing the cultural codes (Swidler
1986) that employees used to modulate their own complex behaviors.
6 Our position is a bit different from the one articulated by Chiles et al. (2010). Even though we acknowl-
edge the importance of creative imagination, we consider this to be: (1) part of a relational process in
which several heterogeneous elements (social and material) are implicated, and (2) one in which the past
plays as much of a role as the present in the imagination process.
References
3M (2002). A century of innovation: The 3M story. St Paul, MN: 3M Company.
Ancona, Deborah G., & Chee Leong Chong (1996). Entrainment: Pace, cycle, and rhythm in organizational
behavior. Research in Organizational Behavior, 18, 251–284.
Anderson, Philip (1999). Complexity theory and organization science. Organization Science, 10, 216–232.
Ansari, Shahzad, & Garud, Raghu (2009). Intergenerational transitions in sociotechnical systems: The case of
mobile communications. Research Policy, 38, 382–392.
Axelrod, Robert, & Cohen, Michael D. (1999). Harnessing complexity. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Barnett, Michael L. (2008). An attention-based view of real options reasoning. Academy of Management
Review, 33, 606.
Bartel, Caroline A., & Garud, Raghu (2003). Adaptive abduction as a mechanism for generalizing from nar-
ratives. In M. Easterby-Smith & M.A. Lyles (Eds.), Handbook of organizational learning and knowledge
(pp. 324–342). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Bartel, Caroline A., & Garud, Raghu (2009). The role of narratives in sustaining organizational innovation.
Organization Science, 20, 107–117.
Beatty, Joy E., & Torbert, William R. (2003). The false duality of work and leisure. Journal of Management
Inquiry, 12, 239–252.
Benner, Mary J., & Tushman, Michael L. (2003). Exploitation, exploration, and process management: The
productivity dilemma revisited. Academy of Management Review, 28, 238–256.
Bergson, Henri (2007 [1913]). An introduction to metaphysics. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Black, Sam (2010). LCD films help 3M to record profits; Firm boosts 2010 guidance. Minneapolis St. Paul
Business Journal, Jan. 28.
Garud et al. 763
Bluedorn, Allen C. (2002). The human organization of time. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Boisot, Max, & Child, John (1999). Organizations as adaptive systems in complex environments: The case of
China. Organization Science, 10, 237–252.
Boje, David M. (2001). Narrative methods for organizational and communication research. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.
Boston Consulting Group (2009). Innovation: Making hard decisions in the downturn. Boston, MA.
Bowker, Geoffrey C., & Star, Susan L. (1991). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Brown, Shona L., & Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. (1997). The art of continuous change: Linking complexity
theory and time-paced evolution in relentlessly shifting organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly,
42, 1–34.
Bruner, Jerome (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Buderi, Robert (2000). Companies squeeze the patent pipeline. Technology Review, 103, 82–93.
Burgelman, Robert A. (1983). A process model of internal corporate venturing in the diversified major firm.
Administrative Science Quarterly, 28, 223–244.
Burnes, Bernard (2005). Complexity theories and organizational change. International Journal of Management
Reviews, 7, 73–90.
Callon, Michel (1987). Society in the making: The study of technology as a tool for sociological analysis. In
W.E. Bijker, T.P. Hughes & T.J. Pinch (Eds.), Social construction of technological systems (pp. 83–103).
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Callon, Michel (2005). Why virtualism paves the way to political impotence. Economic Sociology, 6, 3–20.
Cattani, Gino (2005). Preadaptation, firm heterogeneity, and technological performance: A study on the evo-
lution of fiber optics, 1970–1995. Organization Science, 16, 563–580.
Chesbrough, Henry (2003). Open innovation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Chiles, Todd H., Bluedorn, Allen C., & Gupta, Vishal K. (2007). Beyond creative destruction and entrepre-
neurial discovery: A radical Austrian approach to entrepreneurship. Organization Studies, 28, 467–493.
Chiles, Todd H., Meyer, Alan D., & Hench, Thomas J. (2004). Organizational emergence: The origin and
transformation of Branson, Missouri’s musical theaters. Organization Science, 15, 499–519.
Chiles, Todd H., Tuggle, Christopher S., McMullen, Jeffery S., Bierman, Leonard, & Greening, Daniel W.
(2010). Dynamic creation: Extending the radical Austrian approach to entrepreneurship. Organization
Studies, 31, 7–46.
Christensen, Clayton M. (1997). The innovator’s dilemma. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Clark, Peter (1990). Chronological codes and organizational analysis. In J. Hassard & D. Pym (Eds.), The
theory and philosophy of organizations (pp. 137–163). New York, NY: Routledge.
Cooper, Robert Gravlin (2001). Winning at new products, 3rd edition. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Cowan, George A., Pines, David, & Meltzer, David Elliott (1994). Complexity: Metaphors, models, and real-
ity. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Coyne, William E. (1996). ‘Building a tradition of innovation.’ United Kingdom Department of Trade &
Industry Innovation Lecture. London.
Cunha, Miguel Pina e (2004). Time traveling: Organizational foresight as temporal reflexivity. In H. Tsoukas
& J. Shepherd (Eds.), Managing the future: Foresight in the knowledge economy (pp. 133–150). Malden,
MA: Blackwell.
Cyert, Richard M., & March, James G. (1963). A behavioral theory of the firm. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall.
Czarniawska, Barbara (1998). A narrative approach to organization studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Czarniawska, Barbara (2008). A theory of organizing. Northampton, MA: Elgar.
Daley, Will (2009). R&D ensures ‘prosperity of the fittest’. BusinessWeek, Dec. 23.
Davis, Jason P., Eisenhardt, Kathleen M., & Bingham, Christopher B. (2009). Complexity theory, market
dynamism, and the strategy of simple rules. Administrative Science Quarterly, 54, 413–452.
Dew, Nicholas (2009). Serendipity in entrepreneurship. Organization Studies, 30: 735–753.
Dooley, Kevin J. (1997). A complex adaptive systems model of organization change. Nonlinear Dynamics,
Psychology, & Life Sciences, 1, 69–97.
764 Organization Studies 32(6)
Dooley, Kevin J., & Van de Ven, Andrew H. (1999). Explaining complex organizational dynamics.
Organization Science, 10, 358–372.
Dougherty, Deborah (1992). Interpretative barriers to successful product innovation in large firms.
Organization Science, 3, 179–202.
Dougherty, Deborah, & Hardy, Cynthia (1996). Sustained product innovation in large, mature organizations:
Overcoming innovation-to-organization problems. Academy of Management Journal, 39, 1120–1153.
Dougherty, Deborah, & Heller, Trudy (1994). The illegitimacy of successful product innovation in established
firms. Organization Science, 5, 200–218.
Douglas, Mary (1986). How institutions think. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Drazin, Robert, & Sandelands, Lloyd (1992). Autogenesis: A perspective on the process of organizing.
Organization Science, 3, 230–249.
Edmondson, Amy (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science
Quarterly, 44, 350–383.
Elias, Norbert (1978). What is sociology? New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Emirbayer, Mustafa, & Mische, Ann (1998). What is agency? American Journal of Sociology, 103, 962–1023.
Feldman, Martha S., & Pentland, Brian T. (2003). Reconceptualizing organizational routines as a source of
flexibility and change. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48, 94–121.
Garud, Raghu, Dunbar, Roger L.M., & Bartel, Caroline A. (2010). Dealing with unusual experiences: A
narrative perspective on organizational learning. Organization Science, published online July 20. DOI
10.1287/orsc.1100.0536.
Garud, Raghu, & Karnøe, Peter (2001). Path creation as a process of mindful deviation. In R. Garud &
P. Karnøe (Eds.), Path dependence and creation (pp. 1–38). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Garud, Raghu, & Nayyar, Praveen R. (1994). Transformative capacity: Continual structuring by intertemporal
technology transfer. Strategic Management Journal, 15, 365–385.
Garud, Raghu, Nayyar, Praveen Rattan, & Shapira, Zur Baruch (1997). Technological innovation: Oversights
and foresights. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Gell-Mann, Murray (1994). The quark and the jaguar. New York, NY: Freeman.
Giddens, Anthony (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Hannan, Michael T., Pólos, László, & Carroll, Glenn (2007). Logics of organization theory: Audiences, codes,
and ecologies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hargadon, A., & Sutton, R.I. (1997). Technology brokering and innovation in a product development firm.
Administrative Science Quarterly, 42, 716–749.
Hassard, John (1996). Images of time in work and organization. In S.R. Clegg, C. Hardy, & W.R. Nord (Eds.),
Handbook of organization studies (pp. 581–598). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Henderson, Rebecca M., & Clark, Kim B. (1990). Architectural innovation: The reconfiguration of existing
product technologies and the failure of established firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35, 9–30.
Hindo, Brian (2007). At 3M, a struggle between efficiency and creativity. Business Week, Jun 11.
Hollingshead, Andrea B. (1998). Retrieval processes in transactive memory systems. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 74, 659–671.
Hughes, Thomas Parke (1969). Technological momentum in history: Hydrogenation in Germany 1898–1933.
Past & Present, 44, 106–132.
Irvine, John, & Martin, Ben R. (1984). Foresight in science: Picking the winners. London, UK: Pinter.
Jelinek, Mariann, & Schoonhoven, Claudia Bird (1990). The innovation marathon. San Francisco, CA:
Jossey-Bass.
Kanigel, Robert (1997). The one best way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the enigma of efficiency. New York,
NY: Viking.
Kauffman, Stuart (1995). At home in the universe. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lachmann, Ludwig M. (1976). From Mises to Shackle: An essay on Austrian economics and the kaleidic
society. Journal of Economic Literature, 14, 54–62.
Lachmann, Ludwig M. (1986). The market as an economic process. New York, NY: Blackwell.
Langley, Ann (1999). Strategies for theorizing from process data. Academy of Management Review, 24, 691–710.
Garud et al. 765
Latour, Bruno (1986). The powers of association. In J. Law (Ed.), Power, action and belief (pp. 264–280).
London, UK: Routledge.
Latour, Bruno (2005). Reassembling the social. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lichtenstein, Benyamin B., Carter, Nancy M., Dooley, Kevin J., & Gartner, William B. (2007). Complexity
dynamics of nascent entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 22, 236–261.
Lincoln, Yvonna S., & Guba, Egon G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Loasby, Brian J. (2007). The ubiquity of organization. Organization Studies, 28, 1729–1759.
Locke, Karen, & Velamuri, S. Ramakrishna (2009). The design of member review: Showing what to organiza-
tion members and why. Organizational Research Methods, 12, 488–509.
Maguire, Steve, McKelvey, Bill, Mirabeau, Laurent, & Öztas, Nail (2006). Complexity science and organiza-
tion studies. In S.R. Clegg, C. Hardy, T.B. Lawrence, & W.R. Nord (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organi-
zation studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
March, James G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2,
71–87.
March, James G., & Simon, Herbert A. (1958). Organizations. New York, NY: Wiley & Sons.
Maruyama, Magoroh (1963). Deviation amplifying mutual causal processes. American Scientist, 5, 164–179.
Masuch, Michael (1985). Vicious circles in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 30, 14–33.
Mattioli, Dana, & Maher, Kris (2010). At 3M, innovation comes in tweaks and snips. Wall Street Journal,
March 1.
Mead, George Herbert (1932). The philosophy of the present. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
Meyerguz, Leonid, Kleinberg, Jon, & Elber, Ron (2007). The network of sequence flow between protein
structures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 11627–11632.
Miles, Matthew B., & Huberman, A. Michael (1994). Qualitative data analysis, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.
Miller, Danny, & Friesen, Peter H. (1982). Innovation in conservative and entrepreneurial firms: Two models
of strategic momentum. Strategic Management Journal, 3, 1–25.
Moreland, Richard L. (1999). Transactive memory: Learning who knows what in work groups and orga-
nizations. In L.L. Thompson, J.M. Levine, & D.M. Messick (Eds.), Shared cognition in organizations
(pp. 3–31). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Mosakowski, Elaine, & Earley, P. Christopher (2000). A selective review of time assumptions in strategy
research. Academy of Management Review, 25, 796–812.
Mouritsen, Jan, & Dechow, Niels (2001). Technologies of managing and the mobilization of paths. In
R. Garud & P. Karnøe (Eds.), Path dependence and creation (pp. 355–379). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Nonaka, Ikujiro, & Takeuchi, Hirotaka (1995). The knowledge-creating company. New York, NY: Oxford
University Press.
Ocasio, William (1997). Towards an attention-based view of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 18,
187–206.
Orlikowski, Wanda J., & Yates, JoAnne (2002). It’s about time: Temporal structuring in organizations.
Organization Science, 13, 684–700.
Peirce, C. S. (1934). Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Pentland, Brian T. (1999). Building process theory with narrative: From description to explanation. Academy
of Management Review, 24, 711–724.
Pettigrew, Andrew M. (1990). Longitudinal field research on change: Theory and practice. Organization
Science, 1, 267–292.
Plowman, Donde Ashmos, Baker, Lakami T., Beck, Tammy E., Kulkarni, Mukta, Solansky, Stephanie
Thomas, & Travis, Deandra Villarreal (2007). Radical change accidentally: The emergence and amplifi-
cation of small change. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 515–543.
Rämö, Hans (1999). An Aristotelian human time-space manifold: From chronochora to kairotopos. Time &
Society, 8, 309–328.
Ricoeur, Paul (1984). Time and narrative. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Rosenberg, Nathan (1982). Inside the black box: Technology and economics. New York, NY: Cambridge
University Press.
764 Organization Studies 32(6)
Dooley, Kevin J., & Van de Ven, Andrew H. (1999). Explaining complex organizational dynamics.
Organization Science, 10, 358–372.
Dougherty, Deborah (1992). Interpretative barriers to successful product innovation in large firms.
Organization Science, 3, 179–202.
Dougherty, Deborah, & Hardy, Cynthia (1996). Sustained product innovation in large, mature organizations:
Overcoming innovation-to-organization problems. Academy of Management Journal, 39, 1120–1153.
Dougherty, Deborah, & Heller, Trudy (1994). The illegitimacy of successful product innovation in established
firms. Organization Science, 5, 200–218.
Douglas, Mary (1986). How institutions think. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Drazin, Robert, & Sandelands, Lloyd (1992). Autogenesis: A perspective on the process of organizing.
Organization Science, 3, 230–249.
Edmondson, Amy (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science
Quarterly, 44, 350–383.
Elias, Norbert (1978). What is sociology? New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Emirbayer, Mustafa, & Mische, Ann (1998). What is agency? American Journal of Sociology, 103, 962–1023.
Feldman, Martha S., & Pentland, Brian T. (2003). Reconceptualizing organizational routines as a source of
flexibility and change. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48, 94–121.
Garud, Raghu, Dunbar, Roger L.M., & Bartel, Caroline A. (2010). Dealing with unusual experiences: A
narrative perspective on organizational learning. Organization Science, published online July 20. DOI
10.1287/orsc.1100.0536.
Garud, Raghu, & Karnøe, Peter (2001). Path creation as a process of mindful deviation. In R. Garud &
P. Karnøe (Eds.), Path dependence and creation (pp. 1–38). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Garud, Raghu, & Nayyar, Praveen R. (1994). Transformative capacity: Continual structuring by intertemporal
technology transfer. Strategic Management Journal, 15, 365–385.
Garud, Raghu, Nayyar, Praveen Rattan, & Shapira, Zur Baruch (1997). Technological innovation: Oversights
and foresights. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Gell-Mann, Murray (1994). The quark and the jaguar. New York, NY: Freeman.
Giddens, Anthony (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Hannan, Michael T., Pólos, László, & Carroll, Glenn (2007). Logics of organization theory: Audiences, codes,
and ecologies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hargadon, A., & Sutton, R.I. (1997). Technology brokering and innovation in a product development firm.
Administrative Science Quarterly, 42, 716–749.
Hassard, John (1996). Images of time in work and organization. In S.R. Clegg, C. Hardy, & W.R. Nord (Eds.),
Handbook of organization studies (pp. 581–598). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Henderson, Rebecca M., & Clark, Kim B. (1990). Architectural innovation: The reconfiguration of existing
product technologies and the failure of established firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35, 9–30.
Hindo, Brian (2007). At 3M, a struggle between efficiency and creativity. Business Week, Jun 11.
Hollingshead, Andrea B. (1998). Retrieval processes in transactive memory systems. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 74, 659–671.
Hughes, Thomas Parke (1969). Technological momentum in history: Hydrogenation in Germany 1898–1933.
Past & Present, 44, 106–132.
Irvine, John, & Martin, Ben R. (1984). Foresight in science: Picking the winners. London, UK: Pinter.
Jelinek, Mariann, & Schoonhoven, Claudia Bird (1990). The innovation marathon. San Francisco, CA:
Jossey-Bass.
Kanigel, Robert (1997). The one best way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the enigma of efficiency. New York,
NY: Viking.
Kauffman, Stuart (1995). At home in the universe. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lachmann, Ludwig M. (1976). From Mises to Shackle: An essay on Austrian economics and the kaleidic
society. Journal of Economic Literature, 14, 54–62.
Lachmann, Ludwig M. (1986). The market as an economic process. New York, NY: Blackwell.
Langley, Ann (1999). Strategies for theorizing from process data. Academy of Management Review, 24, 691–710.
Garud et al. 765
Latour, Bruno (1986). The powers of association. In J. Law (Ed.), Power, action and belief (pp. 264–280).
London, UK: Routledge.
Latour, Bruno (2005). Reassembling the social. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lichtenstein, Benyamin B., Carter, Nancy M., Dooley, Kevin J., & Gartner, William B. (2007). Complexity
dynamics of nascent entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 22, 236–261.
Lincoln, Yvonna S., & Guba, Egon G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Loasby, Brian J. (2007). The ubiquity of organization. Organization Studies, 28, 1729–1759.
Locke, Karen, & Velamuri, S. Ramakrishna (2009). The design of member review: Showing what to organiza-
tion members and why. Organizational Research Methods, 12, 488–509.
Maguire, Steve, McKelvey, Bill, Mirabeau, Laurent, & Öztas, Nail (2006). Complexity science and organiza-
tion studies. In S.R. Clegg, C. Hardy, T.B. Lawrence, & W.R. Nord (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organi-
zation studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
March, James G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2,
71–87.
March, James G., & Simon, Herbert A. (1958). Organizations. New York, NY: Wiley & Sons.
Maruyama, Magoroh (1963). Deviation amplifying mutual causal processes. American Scientist, 5, 164–179.
Masuch, Michael (1985). Vicious circles in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 30, 14–33.
Mattioli, Dana, & Maher, Kris (2010). At 3M, innovation comes in tweaks and snips. Wall Street Journal,
March 1.
Mead, George Herbert (1932). The philosophy of the present. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
Meyerguz, Leonid, Kleinberg, Jon, & Elber, Ron (2007). The network of sequence flow between protein
structures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 11627–11632.
Miles, Matthew B., & Huberman, A. Michael (1994). Qualitative data analysis, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.
Miller, Danny, & Friesen, Peter H. (1982). Innovation in conservative and entrepreneurial firms: Two models
of strategic momentum. Strategic Management Journal, 3, 1–25.
Moreland, Richard L. (1999). Transactive memory: Learning who knows what in work groups and orga-
nizations. In L.L. Thompson, J.M. Levine, & D.M. Messick (Eds.), Shared cognition in organizations
(pp. 3–31). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Mosakowski, Elaine, & Earley, P. Christopher (2000). A selective review of time assumptions in strategy
research. Academy of Management Review, 25, 796–812.
Mouritsen, Jan, & Dechow, Niels (2001). Technologies of managing and the mobilization of paths. In
R. Garud & P. Karnøe (Eds.), Path dependence and creation (pp. 355–379). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Nonaka, Ikujiro, & Takeuchi, Hirotaka (1995). The knowledge-creating company. New York, NY: Oxford
University Press.
Ocasio, William (1997). Towards an attention-based view of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 18,
187–206.
Orlikowski, Wanda J., & Yates, JoAnne (2002). It’s about time: Temporal structuring in organizations.
Organization Science, 13, 684–700.
Peirce, C. S. (1934). Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Pentland, Brian T. (1999). Building process theory with narrative: From description to explanation. Academy
of Management Review, 24, 711–724.
Pettigrew, Andrew M. (1990). Longitudinal field research on change: Theory and practice. Organization
Science, 1, 267–292.
Plowman, Donde Ashmos, Baker, Lakami T., Beck, Tammy E., Kulkarni, Mukta, Solansky, Stephanie
Thomas, & Travis, Deandra Villarreal (2007). Radical change accidentally: The emergence and amplifi-
cation of small change. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 515–543.
Rämö, Hans (1999). An Aristotelian human time-space manifold: From chronochora to kairotopos. Time &
Society, 8, 309–328.
Ricoeur, Paul (1984). Time and narrative. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Rosenberg, Nathan (1982). Inside the black box: Technology and economics. New York, NY: Cambridge
University Press.
766 Organization Studies 32(6)
Ruttan, Vernon W. (1959). Usher and Schumpeter on invention, innovation, and technological change.
Quarterly Journal of Economics, 73, 596–606.
Sanderson, Susan, & Uzumeri, Mustafa (1995). Managing product families: The case of the Sony Walkman.
Research Policy, 24, 761–782.
Sawyer, R. Keith (2003). Improvised dialogues. Westport, CT: Ablex.
Schrage, Michael (2000). Serious play: How the world’s best companies simulate to innovate. Boston, MA:
Harvard Business School Press.
Schumpeter, Joseph Alois (2004 [1934]). The theory of economic development. New Brunswick, NJ:
Transaction.
Senge, Peter M. (1990). The fifth discipline. New York, NY: Doubleday/Currency.
Shaw, Gordon, Brown, Robert, & Bromiley, Philip (1998). Strategic stories: How 3M is rewriting business
planning. Harvard Business Review, 76, 41–50.
Simon, Herbert A. (1962). The architecture of complexity. Proceedings of the American Philosophical
Society, 106, 467–482.
Sims, Karl (1991). Artificial evolution for computer graphics. Computer Graphics, 25, 319–328.
Stacey, Ralph D. (2001). Complex responsive processes in organizations. New York, NY: Routledge.
Star, Susan L., & Griesemer, James R. (1989). Institutional ecology, translations and boundary objects:
Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907–1939. Social Studies of
Science, 19, 387–420.
Sterman, John D. (1989). Modeling managerial behavior: Misperceptions of feedback in a dynamic decision
making experiment. Management Science, 35, 321–339.
Swidler, Ann (1986). Culture in action: Symbols and strategies. American Sociological Review, 51, 273–286.
Tarde, Gabriel (1903). The laws of imitation. New York, NJ: Holt.
Taylor, James R., & Van Every, Elizabeth J. (2000). The emergent organization: Communication as its site
and surface. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Technology Review (2004). The patent scorecard 2004. Technology Review, 107, 71–74.
Teece, David J. (1986). Profiting from technological innovation: Implications for integration, collaboration,
licensing and public policy. Research Policy, 15, 285–305.
Thomke, Stefan H. (2003). Experimentation matters: Unlocking the potential of new technologies for innova-
tion. Boston, MA: Havard Business School Press.
Tripsas, Mary (1997). Unraveling the process of creative destruction: Complementary assets and incumbent
survival in the typesetter industry. Strategic Management Journal, 18, 119–142.
Tsoukas, Haridimos (1989). The validity of idiographic research explanations. Academy of Management
Review, 14, 551–561.
Tsoukas, Haridimos (2008). Towards the ecological ideal: Notes for a complex understanding of complex
organizations. In D. Barry & H. Hansen (Eds.), The Sage handbook of new approaches in management
and organization (pp. 195–198). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Tsoukas, Haridimos (2009). A dialogical approach to the creation of new knowledge in organizations.
Organization Science, 20, 941–957.
Tsoukas, Haridimos, & Hatch, Mary Jo (2001). Complex thinking, complex practice: The case for a narrative
approach to organizational complexity. Human Relations, 54, 979–1013.
Tsoukas, Haridimos, & Shepherd, Jill (2004). Managing the future: Foresight in the knowledge economy.
Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Tushman, Michael L., & Nadler, David A. (1978). Information processing as an integrating concept in orga-
nizational design. Academy of Management Review, 3, 613–624.
Tushman, Michael L., & O’Reilly, Charles A. III (1996). Ambidextrous organizations: Managing evolutionary
and revolutionary change. California Management Review, 38, 8–30.
Tushman, Michael L., & Romanelli, Elaine (1985). Organizational evolution: A metamorphosis model of
convergence and reorientation. Research in Organizational Behavior, 7, 171–222.
Usher, Abbott Payson (1954). A history of mechanical inventions, revised edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Garud et al. 767
Van de Ven, Andrew H. (1986). Central problems in the management of innovation. Management Science,
32, 590–607.
Van de Ven, Andrew H., Polley, Douglas E., Garud, Raghu, & Venkataraman, Sankaran (1999). The innova-
tion journey. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Van de Ven, Andrew H., & Poole, Marshall Scott (1995). Explaining development and change in organiza-
tions. Academy of Management Review, 20, 510–540.
Wegner, Daniel M. (1987). Transactive memory: A contemporary analysis of the group mind. In B. Mullen &
G.R. Goethals (Eds.), Theories of group behavior (pp. 185–208). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
Wegner, Daniel M., Erber, Ralph, & Raymond, Paula (1991). Transactive memory in close relationships.
Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 61, 923–929.
Weick, Karl E. (1979). The social psychology of organizing, 2nd edition. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Weick, Karl E. (1995). What theory is not, theorizing is. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 385–390.
Weick, Karl E. (2007). The generative properties of richness. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 14–19.
Whipp, Richard (1994). A time to be concerned: A position paper on time and management. Time & Society,
3, 99–116.
Zuckerman, Ezra W. (1999). The categorical imperative: Securities analysts and the illegitimacy discount.
American Journal of Sociology, 104, 1398–1438.
766 Organization Studies 32(6)
Ruttan, Vernon W. (1959). Usher and Schumpeter on invention, innovation, and technological change.
Quarterly Journal of Economics, 73, 596–606.
Sanderson, Susan, & Uzumeri, Mustafa (1995). Managing product families: The case of the Sony Walkman.
Research Policy, 24, 761–782.
Sawyer, R. Keith (2003). Improvised dialogues. Westport, CT: Ablex.
Schrage, Michael (2000). Serious play: How the world’s best companies simulate to innovate. Boston, MA:
Harvard Business School Press.
Schumpeter, Joseph Alois (2004 [1934]). The theory of economic development. New Brunswick, NJ:
Transaction.
Senge, Peter M. (1990). The fifth discipline. New York, NY: Doubleday/Currency.
Shaw, Gordon, Brown, Robert, & Bromiley, Philip (1998). Strategic stories: How 3M is rewriting business
planning. Harvard Business Review, 76, 41–50.
Simon, Herbert A. (1962). The architecture of complexity. Proceedings of the American Philosophical
Society, 106, 467–482.
Sims, Karl (1991). Artificial evolution for computer graphics. Computer Graphics, 25, 319–328.
Stacey, Ralph D. (2001). Complex responsive processes in organizations. New York, NY: Routledge.
Star, Susan L., & Griesemer, James R. (1989). Institutional ecology, translations and boundary objects:
Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907–1939. Social Studies of
Science, 19, 387–420.
Sterman, John D. (1989). Modeling managerial behavior: Misperceptions of feedback in a dynamic decision
making experiment. Management Science, 35, 321–339.
Swidler, Ann (1986). Culture in action: Symbols and strategies. American Sociological Review, 51, 273–286.
Tarde, Gabriel (1903). The laws of imitation. New York, NJ: Holt.
Taylor, James R., & Van Every, Elizabeth J. (2000). The emergent organization: Communication as its site
and surface. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Technology Review (2004). The patent scorecard 2004. Technology Review, 107, 71–74.
Teece, David J. (1986). Profiting from technological innovation: Implications for integration, collaboration,
licensing and public policy. Research Policy, 15, 285–305.
Thomke, Stefan H. (2003). Experimentation matters: Unlocking the potential of new technologies for innova-
tion. Boston, MA: Havard Business School Press.
Tripsas, Mary (1997). Unraveling the process of creative destruction: Complementary assets and incumbent
survival in the typesetter industry. Strategic Management Journal, 18, 119–142.
Tsoukas, Haridimos (1989). The validity of idiographic research explanations. Academy of Management
Review, 14, 551–561.
Tsoukas, Haridimos (2008). Towards the ecological ideal: Notes for a complex understanding of complex
organizations. In D. Barry & H. Hansen (Eds.), The Sage handbook of new approaches in management
and organization (pp. 195–198). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Tsoukas, Haridimos (2009). A dialogical approach to the creation of new knowledge in organizations.
Organization Science, 20, 941–957.
Tsoukas, Haridimos, & Hatch, Mary Jo (2001). Complex thinking, complex practice: The case for a narrative
approach to organizational complexity. Human Relations, 54, 979–1013.
Tsoukas, Haridimos, & Shepherd, Jill (2004). Managing the future: Foresight in the knowledge economy.
Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Tushman, Michael L., & Nadler, David A. (1978). Information processing as an integrating concept in orga-
nizational design. Academy of Management Review, 3, 613–624.
Tushman, Michael L., & O’Reilly, Charles A. III (1996). Ambidextrous organizations: Managing evolutionary
and revolutionary change. California Management Review, 38, 8–30.
Tushman, Michael L., & Romanelli, Elaine (1985). Organizational evolution: A metamorphosis model of
convergence and reorientation. Research in Organizational Behavior, 7, 171–222.
Usher, Abbott Payson (1954). A history of mechanical inventions, revised edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Garud et al. 767
Van de Ven, Andrew H. (1986). Central problems in the management of innovation. Management Science,
32, 590–607.
Van de Ven, Andrew H., Polley, Douglas E., Garud, Raghu, & Venkataraman, Sankaran (1999). The innova-
tion journey. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Van de Ven, Andrew H., & Poole, Marshall Scott (1995). Explaining development and change in organiza-
tions. Academy of Management Review, 20, 510–540.
Wegner, Daniel M. (1987). Transactive memory: A contemporary analysis of the group mind. In B. Mullen &
G.R. Goethals (Eds.), Theories of group behavior (pp. 185–208). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
Wegner, Daniel M., Erber, Ralph, & Raymond, Paula (1991). Transactive memory in close relationships.
Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 61, 923–929.
Weick, Karl E. (1979). The social psychology of organizing, 2nd edition. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Weick, Karl E. (1995). What theory is not, theorizing is. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 385–390.
Weick, Karl E. (2007). The generative properties of richness. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 14–19.
Whipp, Richard (1994). A time to be concerned: A position paper on time and management. Time & Society,
3, 99–116.
Zuckerman, Ezra W. (1999). The categorical imperative: Securities analysts and the illegitimacy discount.
American Journal of Sociology, 104, 1398–1438.
... With the pandemic ongoing, such processes need to produce innovations significantly faster than before. The conundrum is that existing innovation research tells us that, across different organizations and industries, innovation and new product development (NPD) processes take time (Ancona, Goodman, Lawrence, & Tushman, 2001;Brown & Eisenhardt, 1995;Garud et al., 2011;Van de Ven et al., 1999). Moreover, time pressure on innovation processes and their phases, milestones, and cycles is generally believed to be detrimental for innovation (Amabile, beyond its association with pressure or typical organizational settings with clear temporal structures. ...
... Time plays a central role in innovation (Ancona, Goodman, Lawrence, & Tushman, 2001;Orlikowski & Yates, 2002;Rycroft, 2006). Across different organizations and industries, research emphasizes that significant periods of time are associated with the innovation process (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1995;Garud et al., 2011;Van de Ven et al., 1999). That is, innovation is knowledge intensive (Hargadon & Bechky, 2006) and involves high levels of technological uncertainty (Benner & Tushman, 2003). ...
... That is, innovation is knowledge intensive (Hargadon & Bechky, 2006) and involves high levels of technological uncertainty (Benner & Tushman, 2003). As such, innovation processes tend to be framed as time-intensive "journeys" (Van De Ven et al., 1999) or "cycles" (Agarwal et al., J o u r n a l P r e -p r o o f 2002) that follow a non-linear path (Garud et al., 2011), sometimes taking years to complete (Garud & Nayyar, 1994). ...
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This article discusses the need for accelerated innovation in crisis situations and argues that collaboration plays an important role in enabling such acceleration. The central research question is: How can innovation efforts during crises be accelerated, and what role does collaboration play? We draw on a phenomenon-driven, in-depth qualitative case study of seven initiatives that have developed alternative ventilators in the Netherlands during the COVID-19 crisis. Our results highlight how the COVID-19 pandemic has created a relatively short crisis window of opportunity for accelerated innovation processes that is driven by the urgency to develop solutions to the challenge at hand. Importantly, we show that when collaborative initiatives join other collaborative initiatives— what we define as nested collaboration—a forum for coordinated knowledge and resource exchange between the initiatives is created, increasing the potential for learning and accelerating the innovation process. Finally, we find that purpose is an important intermediating mechanism to accelerate innovation as it enables non-competitive collaboration between the initiatives in favor of the public good. Our results have important implications for accelerated innovation processes to achieve societal missions, goals, or challenges.
... Going forward we discuss what it means for infrastructure to operate at the edge of chaos, in self-organized criticality where the tension between exploitation and exploration of resources is navigated. To do so we frame four tenets that appear frequently in the Complexity literature (Coyote and Thompson, 1967;Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967;Weick, 1976;Galbraith and Galbraith, 1977;Mintzberg, 1979;Henderson and Clark, 1990;March, 1991;Carroll and Burton, 2000;Lichtenstein et al., 2007;Sutherland and Woodroof, 2009;Garud, Gehman and Kumaraswamy, 2011;Woods and Hollnagel, 2017). Each of these tenets is described in detail including examples from infrastructure, and Figure 5 provides an overview. ...
... This will require pivoting infrastructure from processes that emphasize reduction of complexity to those that produce a repertoire (variety) to engage with it. Organizations struggle to engage with complexity for several reasons (Garud, Gehman and Kumaraswamy, 2011). Institutional practices can lock people into "thought worlds" by reducing or governing their interactions and dampening creative dialogues (Dougherty, 1992;Kanigel, 2005), emphasize short-term performance metrics at the expense of nurturing long-term ideas, or have cultures that do not benefit from innovative experiences (Tushman and O'Reilly, 1996). ...
... Early organizational complexity leadership focused on generating innovation during periods of stability (Cyert and March, 1992) or developing innovation in separate organizational units (Tushman and Nadler, 1978;Tushman and O'Reilly, 1996;Benner and Tushman, 2003). These approaches have since been deemed insufficient for environments of constant change where innovation needs to happen continually for organizational survival (Garud, Gehman and Kumaraswamy, 2011). They require organizations to reorient frequently at heavy cost, strain management attention, and as new stakeholders and needs are formed produce a divergence between the change the organization perceives and what is actually happening in the environment (Henderson and Clark, 1990). ...
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Infrastructure systems must change to match the growing complexity of the environments they operate in. Yet the models of governance and the core technologies they rely on are structured around models of relative long-term stability that appear increasingly insufficient and even problematic. As the environments in which infrastructure function become more complex, infrastructure systems must adapt to develop a repertoire of responses sufficient to respond to the increasing variety of conditions and challenges. Whereas in the past infrastructure leadership and system design has emphasized organization strategies that primarily focus on exploitation (e.g., efficiency and production, amenable to conditions of stability), in the future they must create space for exploration, the innovation of what the organization is and does. They will need to create the abilities to maintain themselves in the face of growing complexity by creating the knowledge, processes, and technologies necessary to engage environment complexity. We refer to this capacity as infrastructure autopoiesis. In doing so infrastructure organizations should focus on four key tenets. First, a shift to sustained adaptation – perpetual change in the face of destabilizing conditions often marked by uncertainty – and away from rigid processes and technologies is necessary. Second, infrastructure organizations should pursue restructuring their bureaucracies to distribute more resources and decisionmaking capacity horizontally, across the organization’s hierarchy. Third, they should build capacity for horizon scanning, the process of systematically searching the environment for opportunities and threats. Fourth, they should emphasize loose fit design, the flexibility of assets to pivot function as the environment changes. The inability to engage with complexity can be expected to result in a decoupling between what our infrastructure systems can do and what we need them to do, and autopoietic capabilities may help close this gap by creating the conditions for a sufficient repertoire to emerge.
... Σύμφωνα με την προοπτική της πρακτικής εφαρμογής των αξιών, κρίνεται αναγκαία η εστίαση στις διαδικασίες μέσω των οποίων εφαρμόζονται οι αξίες στη συμπεριφορά και τη δράση των εργαζόμενων. Ορισμένα οργανωσιακά φαινόμενα όπως στρατηγικές, ρουτίνες, βιωσιμότητα, καινο-τομία και τεχνολογίες της πληροφορίας προσεγγίζονται υπό το πρίσμα της εν λόγω θεώρησης των αξιών (Garud, Gehman, & Kumaraswamy, 2011). Η πρακτική εφαρμογή των αξιών εκδηλώνεται με παρόμοια δυναμική τόσο για την επίτευξη επιθυμητών αποτελεσμάτων ή φιλοδοξιών όσο και για την αποφυγή των αρνητικών καταστάσεων. ...
... As such, the service development teams were motivated to adopt an iterative process involving experimental interactions with stakeholders in (increasingly mature) service provision situations. Overall, these processes and underlying conditions of service development appear to be similar to best practices in business organizations [44]. ...
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Transition intermediaries are actors that support socio-technical transition processes by bridging structural deficiencies in a transitioning domain. Previous research has identified what roles transition intermediaries perform and how. However, while transitioning domains are by definition in a state of change, the dynamics of transition intermediaries have hardly been studied. Therefore, we explore what mechanisms are driving change in transition-supportive roles of intermediaries, and what kind of conditions enable an intermediary to be dynamically adaptive in supporting a transitioning domain. These questions are addressed in a longitudinal case study of a major European intermediary in sustainable energy. We find this intermediary changed its transition support activities as a result of the frontline staff continually exploring the needs of transition stakeholders and designing new value offerings in response. These role dynamics are enabled by a structure where the policy principal delegates the choice of support activity and external accountability to the intermediary, which organizes itself in a customer-oriented manner. As such, we conclude that the dynamics in intermediaries’ transition activities arise from the interplay between policy mandate, organizational structure/design, and staff agency.
... We found that the potential social and economic gains reach far beyond the region where these entrepreneurial activities occur. Innovations often stimulate the development of other innovations [25], potentially resulting in a virtuous cycle of environmental innovations within Australia's circular economy [1]. To accomplish this requires the Australian forestry sector to follow the lead of Australian agriculture and fully embrace entrepreneurship as a necessary capability for its survival (e.g., [26]). ...
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New global and domestic policy and regulatory initiatives promoting a circular economy have renewed interest in the beneficial repurposing of commercial waste streams. Likewise, consumer trends and customers’ increased understanding of what they purchase, where it comes from, and what happens to it post-consumption have forced firms to consider reducing and reusing their production waste streams. The forest products industry is an exemplar of becoming more adept at reorganising and exploiting repurposed waste streams for beneficial reuse. This paper explores three case studies from the Australian forestry sector that illustrate how wood waste is being profitably repurposed as an input into other products. We use the lens of the entrepreneurial method to explore how firms recognise, strategically access, and exploit the sustainable opportunities that can range from sustainably sourced inputs to environmental-, social-, and governance-driven consumption and investments. Effectual logic allows the reconceptualisation of forestry waste streams into inputs for use in creating new commercial products and provides a theoretical framework. While the repurposing of wood waste is profitable for the forestry firm, we found that social and economic gains reach far beyond the region in which these activities occur. Innovations often stimulate other innovations, resulting in a virtuous cycle within regional Australia’s emerging circular economy.
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Literature on strategy, innovation, and portfolio management has recently shown increased interest in the concept of planned emergence. This builds on an understanding that organizations’ innovation is triggered both by deliberate top‐down management approaches as well as emergent bottom‐up processes. However, little is known on how to effectively plan emergence. In this context, bootlegging has been mentioned as a potential approach, describing instances in which employees choose to innovate without the knowledge and permission of top managers. Whereas past research has focused on the individual employee, we shift the perspective to the overall tendency of bootlegging in organizations. We investigate which organizational conditions facilitate the propensity of bootlegging becoming a widespread practice in an organization, and how this tendency is associated with the organization’s innovativeness. Drawing on the theory of creative deviance, we argue that organizations deploying management practices fostering emergent and induced innovation initiatives increase structural strain and thereby bootlegging tendency in such organizations. As more innovation initiatives are elaborated outside the formal process, the number and diversity of ideas outside the strategic scope should increase. Higher bootlegging tendency is thereby proposed to be associated with higher portfolio innovativeness. Empirical evidence from the study of 930 respondents in 124 firms supports the notion that management practices supporting emergent innovation initiatives, increase bootlegging tendency, which in turn increases newness of the organization’s innovation portfolio. Management practices inducing a particular innovation direction are, in contrast, less prone to trigger structural strain with lesser effects on bootlegging tendencies of the organization. In sum, we contribute to the literature by providing evidence on bootlegging as a promising approach to enable ‘planned emergence’. We illustrate how different types of management practices can be used to regulate deviance in the organization to achieve higher degrees of newness of the organization’s innovation outcomes.
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Leadership is a critical component in approaching infrastructure resilience. Leadership, the formal and informal governance within an organization, drives an infrastructure system's ability to respond to changing circumstances. Due to the instability of the Anthropocene, infrastructure managers (individuals who design, build, maintain, and decommission infrastructure) can no longer rely on assumptions of stationarity, but instead that shifts are occurring at a faster rate than institutions and infrastructure organizations are adapting. Leadership and organizational change literature provide considerable insights into the ability of organizations to navigate uncertainty and complexity, and infrastructure organizations may be able to learn from this knowledge to avoid obsolescence. Therefore, this article asks: what leadership capabilities do infrastructure organizations need to readily respond to stability and instability? An integrative leadership framework is proposed, exploring capabilities of collaboration, perception and exploration toward learning, and flexible informal and formal governance leveraged by leadership. These capabilities are driven by underlying tensions (e.g., climate change, emerging technologies) and managed through enabling leadership, a set of processes for pivoting between stability and instability. The framework is then applied to infrastructure organizations. Lack of market competition may make infrastructure organizations more open to collaboration and, therefore, learning. However, the need to provide specific services may cause risk adversity and an avoidance of failure, restricting flexibility and innovation. It is critical for infrastructure organizations to identify their strengths and weaknesses so they may develop an approach to change at pace with their external environments.
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In this chapter we focus on organizational routines for innovation work. We counter the view that routines and innovation are an unlikely couple. Emphasizing that innovation work is characterized by emergence, dispersed collaboration between heterogeneous actors, and novelty, we are beginning to see how mundane actions—as opposed to grand creative acts—and the interplay between routines and standard operating procedures are driving the development of innovations-in-the-making. We review empirical routine dynamic studies of innovation work to point out affordances of the routine dynamic lens and suggest new avenues for studying innovation work to contribute new theoretical insights about organizational routines.
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Objets fronti_re = s'adaptent pour prendre en compte plusieurs points de vue et maintenir une identité entre eux Cet espace de travail se construit grâce à des objets-frontières tels que des systèmes de classification, qui relient entre eux les concepts communs et les rôles sociaux divergents de chaque groupe professionnel. Les objet-frontière contribuent à la stabilité du système de référence en offrant un contexte partagé pour la communication et la coopération. Les objets peuvent être considérés comme frontière (Star et Griesemer, 1989) en tant qu’ils contribuent à la stabilité du système de référence en offrant un contexte partagé pour la communication et la coopération.