Doctoral Dissertation: Entering the Back Stage of Innovation
Place: Aalto University School of Economics, Chydenia Building, Stora Enso auditorium (Runeberginkatu 22–24)
In her dissertation Tea Lempiälä examines the praxis of idea development, with the aim of adding to the understanding of the nature of the initial stages of the innovation process (i.e. the front end of innovation) at grass roots level. The study focuses particularly on the questions of why and how organisations fail in providing support for the day-to-day development work. By opening the door to the back stage of innovation activities the dissertation sheds light on the tensions that exist between the day-to-day praxis of developing ideas and its formal presentation in organisations. The research draws on a wealth of material based on interviews and observations carried out in three Finnish business enterprises. The subject group of the study are technology experts.
Understanding the praxis of idea development – a neglected area of innovation research
Even though innovativeness has aroused wide interest among both researchers and practitioners, there has been little research on how ideas are developed on the level of everyday praxis. Especially the details of collaborative idea development have seldom been a subject of research. With the aim of narrowing this gap in extant knowledge, Tea Lempiälä’s dissertation brings together understanding from three different research streams – the front end of innovation, innovativeness and practice research – and produces new empirical insight on the details of idea development praxis.
The dissertation consists of four studies, the first of which deals with the challenges related to rewarding innovative work, the second with the barriers to out-of-the-box creativity in groups, the third with the discrepancies between formal support structures and collaborative praxis of idea development and the fourth with the smuggling of ideas in organisations.
Tensions arise from different ideals in the front stage and the back stage
Lempiälä’s study shows that idea development is a fundamentally collaborative, contextual and delicate activity. The collaborative nature of the process is seen in the fact that ideas are built together with trusted colleagues from the very beginning, and jealousy of ideas occurs less frequently than might be expected. The contextual nature of idea development refers to the fact that ideas spring from the challenges of one’s own work, they require immediate reaction and are bound to the moment of their creation. The delicate nature of idea development appears from the fact that ideas are often smuggled in rather than assertively championed.
According to Lempiälä the development practice described above is often in conflict with the formal support structures of innovation management. Expressed in broader terms, there are tensions between the front stage and the back stage of innovation. Lempiälä has discovered that these tensions arise from the fact that the front stage and the back stage are based on differing ideals. The front stage ideals are clarity, linearity and objectivity, while back stage praxis is iterative, ambiguous and subjective. In addition, in the front stage idea developers are seen as assertive champions, while in the back stage uncertainty is also admitted. These tensions help to explain the challenges of supporting innovation at the early stages of the process, and their recognition makes it easier to remove organisational obstacles to idea development. In addition to creating novel academic understanding the results of this dissertation benefit all those working with innovation.
For more information, please contact:
Professor Raghu Garud, from Pennsylvania State University, will act as opponent and Professor Raimo Lovio as custos. The dissertation can be purchased from the AYY service office in the main building of the Aalto University School of Economics, Runeberginkatu 14‒16. Representatives of the media can request free copies of the dissertation from the School of Economics, Communications unit, viestinta-econ(at)aalto.fi or tel. 050 566 5673.
Contact information of the author:
Tea Lempiälä, 040 5000064, tea.lempiala(at)aalto.fi