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Dynamic capabilities


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Dynamic capabilities

  1. 1. Lene Foss, Tatiana Iakovleva, JillKickul, Elin Oftedal and Anne Solheim This paper augments and extends the dynamic capability perspective by investigating the microfoundationsthatunderlie the dynamic capabilities of discontinuous innovation. We contend that the dynamiccapabilitiesperspective can provide a useful theoretical lens for investigating this type of innovation, particularly as we focus on the origins and development (microfoundations) of such capabilitieswithinnascentyet emergingentrepreneurial firms. Drawing on the analysis of data from two firms operating within drilling and exploration activities in the Norwegian petroleum industry, we apply the innovation framework of Francis and Bessant (2005) and develop four propositionsregardingthe developmentof microfoundations of dynamic capabilities (e.g., product, position, process, and paradigm) that may be essential and tangent to a firm’s ability to innovate withintheirrespective marketplace. Ourfindings through our case study approach reveal the types and breadth (including subindices) of these microfoundations. We thereby conclude by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of our research. The Role of Microfoundations in Explicating Dynamic Capabilities: A Case Study of Commercializing Discontinuous Innovation in the Norwegian Petroleum Sector Petroleum sector in Two Companies in the Norwegian Petroleum Sector Key Words:dynamiccapabilities; microfoundations; discontinuous innovation; petroleum industry
  2. 2. 2 1. Introduction A central concern of a firm’s overall strategy and the management of its own innovations is to maintain a dynamic fit between what the firm has to offer and what the environment dictates (Learned et al., 1965; Miles and Snow, 1978). As such, a firm must possess the essential capabilities so as to constantly reconfigure, renew, and redeploy its resources and capabilities to better capture and exploit the changing opportunities (Teece, Pisano, and Shuen, 1997). Given their smallness and newness of entrepreneurial firms, the need for dynamic capabilities and the leveraging of resources and capabilities in overcoming challenges and introducing new innovations within an industry environment can prove to be an extremely daunting task. As highlighted by Lee and Kelley (2008), the dynamic capabilities perspective can provide a useful theoretical lens for investigating innovation at the organizational level. In lack of a common accepted and well-received definition of dynamic capabilities several scholars have recently come together and define dynamic capabilities as the capacity of an organization to purposely create, extend, or modify its resource base (Helfat et al., 2007:4) arguing that this definition is meaningful and enables others to better understand the nature and origins of dynamic capabilities through continual research. As also posited by Easterby-Smith et al. (2009), dynamic capabilities are determined in a variety of forms, involving a diversity of functions, including product development innovations, process development, as well as idea generating improvements. Finally, and one common theme that aligns well with the nature of innovation, is that dynamic capabilities are more specifically associated with change (Zollo and Winter, 2002; Winter, 2003; Zahra et al., 2006). As an emerging area of research, several calls for how to develop a theory of dynamic capabilities have been issued. First, the concept of dynamic capabilities has been criticised for being tautological in nature and for not being operational (Mosakowski and McKelvey 1997; Priem and Butler 2000). Thus, this paper follows recent calls for enhancing conceptual models of dynamic capabilities (cf., Wang and Ahmed, 2007) by exploring possible antecedents of dynamic capabilities. Second, scholars agree that the field lacks empirical studies of new firms (Zahra et al., 2006), as new firms are likely to have fewer initial resources to the development of dynamic capabilities. We therefore examine early-stage firms where the development of dynamic capabilities has yet to fully materialize. Third, research needs to frame micro-questions concerning of how and why managers use dynamic capabilities, what dynamic capabilities look like in organizations, and how they are deployed (Ambrosini and Bowman, 2009). Following this call the research question in this paper requires an empirical study of the experience of managers in entrepreneurial firms. Fourth, following the call for contextualizing theory building (Zahra, 2007), this study makes use of the fact that few studies relate dynamic capabilities to a firm’s innovation. Thus our framework contains the context of dynamic capabilities in commercializing a discontinuous innovation. In following these calls we recognize that while the breadth and variety of dynamic capabilities can vary across firms, an important question is how fundamental dynamic capabilities are associated with firm specific processes, the purported microfoundations of dynamic capabilities (Teece, 2007). This leads us to investigate
  3. 3. 3 possible antecedents of dynamic capabilities and examine the role that a firm’s microfoundations have on the process, creation, and evolution of its dynamic capabilities. We will further explore the unique functions that these microfoundations might have on the innovation process as firms develop their own capabilities toward the commercialization of their innovations. In studying firms within a similar business environment their microfoundations and ensuing innovation may facilitate the degree and type of dynamic capabilities developed. While dynamic capabilities can be considered as the resource-based changes that facilitate innovation, we examine the unique antecedents – microfoundations - that lead to the development of these capabilities within early-stage entrepreneurial firms. The research question to be answered in this paper is: How do entrepreneurs and their firms build the essential microfoundations that underlie the dynamic capabilities needed to commercialize discontinuous innovations? In answering this question this study contributes to the literature by relating micro foundations and dynamic capabilities to the context of innovation. Because innovation and entrepreneurial performance is a consequence of the strategic fit between organizational capabilities, resources, and the environment (Helfat and Lieberman, 2002), we align the microfoundations investigated within a framework of discontinuous innovation. We adopt a framework and offer propositions based on the innovation research advanced by Francis and Bessant (2005). They describe processes of innovation changes within a firm that are similar to the central processes that underlie the creation of dynamic capabilities. By drawing on the analysis of data from two innovative firms operating within drilling and exploration activities in the Norwegian petroleum industry, we uncover specific microfoundations that are closely aligned with models that describe the innovation process. Thus this study also contributes to the perspective that capabilities are embedded and processual of nature (Henderson 1994; Lee 1999; Eisenhardt and Martin 2000). Following this, the methodological contribution of the study is its aims for gaining a deeper understanding of the antecedents of dynamic capabilities by getting rich data from those experiencing it (cf. Shah and Corley, 2006). Hence, this case study is carried out in close interaction with practitioners who deal with real management situations, a strategy suited for creating managerially relevant knowledge (Amabile et al., 2001, Leonard-Barton, 1990; Gibbert, Ruigrok and Wicki, 2008). The paper proceeds as follows. First, we introduce and discuss the development of a firm’s microfoundations of dynamic capabilities within the context of commercializing discontinuous innovations. Second, we apply the innovation framework of Francis and Bessant (2005) and discuss the relationship between their four processes of innovation and the creation of the microfoundations of dynamic capabilities and develop propositions. Next, we describe our case study approach that focus on the types and breadth of microfoundations as well as our findings that reveal specific subindices of our firm’s microfoundations. We conclude by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of our research.
  4. 4. 4 2. The Development of a Firm’s Microfoundations of Dynamic Capabilities in Commercializing Discontinuous Innovations 2.1. Context: Commercializing Discontinuous Innovation Managers in established companies have acknowledged that discontinuous innovation is vital to their sustainability (Rice et al., 2002). According to Tushman and O'Reilly (1997), discontinuous innovation means leaving the old technologies and processes. Thus, discontinuous innovation that involves "disruptive technologies," "discontinuities," or "radical innovations" let entire industries and markets emerge, transform, or disappear (Christensen, 1997; Hamel and Prahalad, 1994; Utterback, 1996). However, the economic benefits of innovations are never fully realised until the innovation is actually introduced to the market. Commercialization is often seen as a poorly managed phase (Luoma, Paasi and Nordlund, 2008). Discontinuous innovation transforms the relationship between customers and suppliers, restructures marketplace economics, displaces current products, and often creates entirely new product categories (Rice et al., 2002). Firms encounter difficulties and uncertainties when a new technology-based product reaches commercialization, because the product or market is unknown and undefined (Tidd, Bessant and Pavitt, 2005). This problem is further magnified when both the product and market is complex. Without delicate commercialization preparations during the innovation process, even high-quality new products or services may fail. Another important aspect at this stage is the accumulation of costs, as this is actually the most expensive part of the new product development process (Luoma, Paasi and Nordlund, 2008). The traditional domain of discontinuous innovation is marked by high technical and market uncertainty (Rice et al., 2002; Souder et al., 1998; Lynn and Akgun, 1998). Rice et al. (2002) described different aspects of technical uncertainties, such as the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the essential scientific knowledge, the degree to which the technical specifications of the product can be implemented, the consistency of the manufacturing processes, maintainability, and so forth. However, market uncertainties include the degree to which customer needs and wants are clear and well understood, the extent to which conventional forms of interaction between the customer and the product can be used, the appropriateness of conventional methods of sales and distribution, and the project team’s understanding of the relationship of the discontinuous innovation to competitors’ products. Further, they claim that discontinuous innovation projects involve high levels of uncertainty (Rice et al., 2002). This study considers discontinuous innovation as every kind of innovation that will induce change and as such, deliver discontinuity. The change may be associated with new knowledge or technology (radical innovations) or incremental innovations result in radical or discontinuous innovations (i.e., small changes have big effects and the input of new knowledge can push thought into radical new directions). Because of the high level of uncertainties when commercializing discontinuous innovations, only a fraction of the cases succeed. Our argument is that development of the microfoundations of dynamic capabilities is important for reducing the uncertainty in commercializing such innovations.
  5. 5. 5 2.2 Dynamic capabilities There has been a considerable amount of research recently focusing on dynamic capabilities. Dynamic capabilities are viewed as drivers behind creation, evolution, and recombination of other resources into a new source of competitive advantage (Henderson and Cockburn, 1994; Teece et al., 1997). Barney (1991) described resources as all assets, capabilities, organizational processes, firm attributes, information and knowledge controlled by the firm which enable the firm to conceive of and implement strategies that improve its efficiency and effectiveness. However, resources alone are not enough to explain firm’s competitive advantage, they need to be employed in some way in order to be useful (Penrose, 1959; Grant, 1991). In reply to this critique, the dynamic capability approach has evolved, and defined as the ability to coordinate and deploy resources in order to achieve the firm’s goals (Amit and Schoemaker, 1993). This capabilities approach thus overcomes the critique of whether possession or usage of resources is the primary concern (Wiklund and Shepherd, 2003). Further, as they are not simply inputs into a productive process, capabilities cannot be purchased from the market (Makadok, 2001). The resource-based thinking has recently been extended by viewing the firm as a stock as well as a dynamic flow of resources (McKelvie and Davidsson, 2009). The constantly changing circumstances to a new firm call for the constant restructuring and transformation of resources (Eisenhardt and Martin, 2000). Dynamic capabilities are now seen as the firm’s ability to integrate and change resource base to address changing environment (McKelvie and Davidsson, 2009). The role of dynamic capabilities is to impact on the firm’s extant resource base and transforms it in such a way that a new bundle or configuration of resources is created so that the firm can sustain or enhance its competitive advantage (Ambrosini and Bowman, 2009). Therefore, the dynamic capability perspective offers an attempt to explain how firms can leverage their strategies and change their valuable resources that enable them to confront and overcome multiple challenges over time. Eisenhardt and Martin (2000: 1107) defined dynamic capabilities as “the firm’s processes that use resources – specifically the processes to integrate, reconfigure, gain and release resources – to match or even create market change.” Therefore, this approach allows us to study not only the resources firms’ need to successfully commercialize its new products, but also the methods and ways of managing these resources to achieve superior competitive advantage and innovation. Examples of dynamic capabilities having been identified and described in the literature include R&D (Helfat, 1997), acquisition process (Karim and Mitchell, 2000), product innovation process (Danneels, 2002), absorptive capacity (Zahra and George, 2002), organizational structure reconfiguration (Karim, 2006). This demonstrates where dynamic capabilities are used in managing large-scale firm processes or changes. The common characteristics of dynamic capabilities across firms are identifiable and demonstrate the nature of “commonalities in key features” (Eisenhardt and Martin, 2000). Wang and Ahmed (2007) argue that it is possible to identify three main components of dynamic capabilities across studies, namely adaptive capability, absorptive capability and innovative capability. These capabilities underpin a firm’s ability to integrate, reconfigure, renew and recreate its resources and capabilities in line with external changes. Adaptive capability stresses a firm’s ability to adapt itself
  6. 6. 6 in a timely fashion through flexibility of resources and aligning resources and capabilities with environmental changes. Hence, the focus of adaptive capability is to align internal organizational factors with external environmental factors. Absorptive capability highlights the importance of taking external knowledge, combining it with internal knowledge and absorbing it for internal use. Innovative capability effectively links a firm’s inherent innovativeness to marketplace-based advantage in terms of new products and markets. Therefore, innovative capability explains the linkages between a firm’s resources and capabilities with its product markets. In building on this framework these three types of capabilities are described in more detail below and also linked to the context of commercialization. Adaptive Capabilities Adaptive capability is defined as a firm’s ability to identify and capitalize on emerging market opportunities (Chakrovarthy, 1982; Hooley et al., 1992). Therefore, adaptive capabilities are essential in the context of commercialization. Adaptive capability focuses on effective search and balancing exploration and exploitation strategies (Staber and Sydow, 2002). This type of “balancing” act is brought to a strategic level and linked to the resource perspective. The development of adaptive capability is often accompanied by the evolution of organizational forms. According to Rindova and Kotha (2001) firms undergo comprehensive, continuous changes in products, services, resources, capabilities and modes of organizing. Other empirical studies (e.g., Alvarez and Merino, 2003; Camuffo and Volpato, 1996; Forrant and Flynn, 1999) also reveal that the ability to adapt to environment and align internal resources with external demand is critical to firm evolution and survival in several industries. Adaptive capabilities often refer to the firm’s ability to adapt their product- market scope to respond to external opportunities, to scan the market, monitor customers and competitors and allocate resources to marketing activities, and to respond to changing market environment in a speedy manner (Oktemgil and Gordon, 1997). According to Gibson and Brikinshaw (2004) adaptive capability refers to the management ability to encourage people to challenge outmoded traditions, practices and sacred cows, which allows the firm to respond quickly to changes in the market and evolve rapidly in response to shifts in its business priorities. In the context of newly established firms this capability refers to positioning itself in the market space. Absorptive Capabilities Cohen and Levinthal (1990: 128) refer to absorptive capability: “the ability of a firm to recognize the value of new, external information, assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends… the ability to evaluate and utilize outside knowledge is largely a function of the level of prior knowledge”. Firm’s ability to acquire external, new knowledge, assimilate it with existing internal knowledge and ability to create new knowledge is an important factor of dynamic capabilities in several industries (George, 2005; Salvato, 2003; Verona and Ravasi, 2003). Absorptive capacity is crucial for learning processes such as those which are taking place in development. Commercializing discontinous innovations are a specifically challenging process because of the level of newness to the marketplace. Therefore, the process of absorbing new knowledge and to learn from other industries, partners and other actors become essential. This is also true for the product development and integration of new technological solutions.
  7. 7. 7 Innovative Capabilities Innovative capability refers to a firm’s ability to develop new products and (or) markets, through aligning strategic innovative orientation with innovative behaviours and processes (Wang and Ahmed, 2004). This is quite close to the firm’s entrepreneurial orientation construct. This encompasses several dimensions, such as developing new products and services, developing new methods of production, identifying new markets, seeking unusual and novel solutions (Schumpeter, 1934; Miller and Friesen, 1983). Capon et al. (1992) study three dimensions of organizational innovativeness which are relevant for innovative capability: market innovativeness, strategic tendency to pioneer and technological sophistication. While the majority of studies on dynamic capabilities have primarily focused on large and established firms, the context of newly established firms created to take innovation to market is different. In this context firms are created to develop and bring to market new products so they exhibit innovative capability. The concept of innovative capability therefore, applies well to how established companies manages to produce new products and processes, however for companies established around an innovation one could argue that all capabilities are innovative. On the other hand, this would neglect certain important elements of what occurs in the process of commercializing continuous innovations. Therefore, innovative capabilities in this study points to more underlying structural processes that promote development, change and innovation in the company. 2.3 Developing the Microfoundations of a Firm’s Dynamic Capabilities Easterby-Smith and Peteraf (2009) argues that the problem to identify dynamic capabilities lies in the inherently intertemporal nature of the phenomena and their association with tacit organizational elements and intangibles (routines, processes, managerial cognition and knowledge). These tacit elements are what Teece (2007) call the micro foundations of dynamic capabilities; distinct skills, processes, procedures, organizational structures, decision rules, and disciplines. According to Teece (2007) these micro foundations undergird enterprise-level sensing, seizing, and reconfiguring capacities and are difficult to develop and deploy. For example, dynamic capabilities are sometimes argued to include search, or ability to sense changing customer needs, technological opportunities and competitive developments (Teece, 2007). According to Ambrosini and Bowman (2009), these factors are not dynamic capabilities in and of themselves, rather their microfoundations. Thus, microfoundations of dynamic capabilities can be defined as managerial and organizational processes that underpin and enable the deployment of dynamic capabilities. Teece (2007) argue that these firm specific micro foundations of dynamic capabilities are necessarily incomplete, inchoate and opaque. As claimed by Helfat et al. (2007), prior literature has placed less emphasis on the underlying processes that an organization requires in order to move from its starting position to a new or adjusted path. Answering for this call our study will focus on exploring micro foundation of dynamic capabilities and their role in facilitating three types of dynamic capabilities – adaptive, absorptive and innovative. Following the conceptual distinctions made above, the theoretical scope of dynamic capabilities needs to be narrowed down to issues that will contribute with new
  8. 8. 8 knowledge in the field, particularly as it relates to commercializing an innovation. In their article, ‘Targeting Innovation and Implications for Capability Development,’ Francis and Bessant (2005) discuss the four ‘P’s’ of innovation targeting that are related to discontinuous innovation (from incremental to radical). They discuss innovation capability around four categories; product, process, position, paradigm that can be pursued at the same time and are closely related. See Figure 1 below. Figure 1: Microfoundations of Dynamic Capabilities (4 P’s Classification) Since our focus is on the processes and development of the different types of microfoundations and how they are created through the process of commercializing discontinuous innovations, the emphasis on capability development makes the four p framework excellent proxies for microfoundations in our investigation and case study approach. This study therefore will look at the role of each of the four dimensions of innovation in the commercialization process. In this study role is associated with the focus or importance that each of the dimensions receives in the companies’ pursuit to commercialize their innovation. Product role That a new product or service (or an improvement of such) is a prerequisite for innovation can be traced back to Schumpeter’s (1934) types ways of innovation. Here we relate the product role to improvements or radical changes in the product and services that the organization offers. We argue that developing firm specific competencies in changing the product according to the needs of customers constitute
  9. 9. 9 microfoundations for creation of dynamic capabilities in the organization. ”Targeting innovation capability on developing new and/or improved products can involve multiple actors engaged in complex and inter-linked processes with a single end in view— creating value for the customer” (Francis and Bessant 2005:174.). Therefore, the focus or role that the product has for the company may influence the development of dynamic capabilities and we advance the following proposition: Proposition 1: The product role will be a key microfoundation underlying dynamic capabilities Process role Processes are sequences of activities, often proceeding horizontally across organizations (Francis and Bessant, 2005) and are a widely accepted area of change and innovation (Schumpeter, 1934) Processes can be developed and enhanced in a number of ways for example through reducing waste and optimizing performance. (Gallagher et al., 1997). Further, new technology can add precision, improved training can increase conformance or process mapping can identify time wasted in unnecessary activities (Stalk, 1993). There is also substantial opportunity to identify new process routes that offer better performance along one or more dimensions. Enhanced processes may also be important in the innovation process. The process role is here understood as the extent that process is focused upon within the organization. We argue that the process role is essential in the development of dynamic capabilities. Thus, we propose: Proposition 2: The process role will be a key microfoundation underlying dynamic capabilities. Position role The position role focuses on the meaning of the product in the eyes of the potential customer and/ or the market (Francis and Bessant, 2005:175). Positioning can be summarised as “what the firm would like typical costumers from targeted groups to feel and say about their product”. Further, the right positioning can significantly alter the features of a marketplace or create a market that does not exist We believe that position role in the firm affect the firm’s ability to seek and develop new markets in addition to find ways of communicating with the marketplace. The role of the position in the commercialization process therefore may influence the development of dynamic capabilities. Thus, we advance the following proposition: Proposition 3: The position role will be a key microfoundation underlying dynamic capabilities. Paradigm role The paradigm role influences innovation capability in an organization. Further, the role of the paradigm may influence commercialization activities and thus the development of dynamic capabilities. The role of the paradigm refers to changes in the underlying mental and business models which frame what the organization do (Francis and Bessant, 2005). Further, the paradigm role thus includes the focus on
  10. 10. 10 self-reflection and continual development. Francis and Bessant (2005) describes the paradigm as twofold: Firstly it targets firm values and human resource management policies. This is called inner-directed paradigms. Secondly, it refers to business models – “a systemof coherent, comprehensive, explicit and/or implicit constructs used by managers to understand their firm and shape its development” which is called the outer-directed paradigms. (Francis and Bessant (2005: 177). The paradigm may develop and change during the commercialization process, hence we propose: Proposition 4: The paradigm role will be a key microfoundation underlying dynamic capabilities. 3. Research Method 3. 1 A Comparative Case Study Design With regard to empirical setting the increasing need and interest for research and development within the offshore petroleum industry in Norway makes a powerful and compelling context for examining discontinuous innovations. As the offshore industry moves toward deeper sea, field development solutions change innovate from fixed to floating production units and smaller installations on the seabed. As exploration drilling takes place in increasingly more challenging environments, existing technological solutions approach their technical or cost limits, creating a need for new technologies and innovation. Hence, research and development within subsea drilling and exploration technologies constitute a “natural laboratory” for investigating discontinuous innovations. In order to contribute to theory development a case study design was chosen to enable answers on “how” (cf. Bacharach, 1989). Thus, the embedded, processual and contextual nature of the microfoundations of dynamic capabilities can be revealed. In meeting the criticisms of case study research in the field of dynamic capabilities (Wang and Ahmed, 2007), we demonstrate the potential of case studies for inspiring new ideas and approaches (Siggelkow 2007) by producing rich data to inform theory. According to the taxonomy scheme of Colquitt and Zapata-Phelan (2007), our research design is similar to archetype “builders,” being relatively high in theory building and relatively low in theory testing. Following the theoretical sampling of cases, we build on the suggestive arguments that multiple cases create more robust theory grounded in varied empirical evidence (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007). We controlled for industry, type of company and type of innovation. Hence, both companies are within the exploration and drilling segment of the Norwegian petroleum industry and they are in the early stages of commercializing their product. The cases vary in organizational size, somewhat in technology and market niche. This leaves ample opportunities for use to observe variation among our firms. In choosing an interpretive paradigm (Burell and Morgan, 1979; Gioia and Pitre, 1990), we aim to gain a deeper understanding of a phenomenon through understanding the interpretations of that phenomenon from those experiencing it (Shah and Corley, 2006). This study encompasses in-depth individual, semi- structured interviews with the CEOs, and members of management teams in the
  11. 11. 11 selected firms. The informants were selected to provide a balance of opinions from different professional areas, and different levels of responsibility and seniority in an attempt to gather and integrate a variety of perspectives. Semi-structured interviews were chosen as the method of gathering information since they leave room for adjustments during the interview. 3.2 Data collection strategy In October 2008, part of the management team in Beta, and the CEO in Alpha were interviewed. The one-hour interviews were conducted with the aim of getting acquainted with the companies and to obtain their formal agreement to participate in the research project. We also attempted to determine the main challenges faced by each company as well as to obtain general information about the firm history, current situation with regard to product development, customer and competitor relationships and the management team. We conducted further interviews in December 2008 and February 2009. These interviews were focused on technology development and technology fit, on developing the organization as well as aspects of commercialization. More precise the interviews were organized in three rounds. The primary goal with the first round was to get to know the companies, their product history, their innovation process, who has been involved, the people working there and their background and their skills and what they considered as their main challenges. The primary goal with the second round was to get a detailed understanding of the microfoundations. It became very clear after the first round how the commercialization process was associated with these distinct and parallel processes. The primary goal in round three was to cover topics not covered in round two, i.e. a deeper dive in understanding the firm’s microfoundations. Whereas the informants in round one and two were CEO and members of management teams, round three also covered important key informants in the companies’ environment, such as the leaders of the technology/research departments in two petroleum companies, as well as one board member/industry adviser who was connected to one of the firms. Hence the third round of interviews were also conducted in order to learn more about the industry setting and conditions innovative companies face in this particular industry. To summarize, we have conducted 12 interviews, three with each company, two with two different oil companies and one with a board member/business advisor. 4. Empirical results This section contains the empirical results and consists of two parts. First, a general description of the cases is presented. Table 1 in Appendix describes the resources, including firm assets, and attributes of the two firms. Second, microfoundations of dynamic capabilities are revealed. In this part, quotations from the informants are used to support the empirical claims.
  12. 12. 12 4.1 Description of Alpha and Beta Alpha was founded 2005 and was established by a team of four founders based on a technology foresight process where several ideas were assessed. The idea they are developing is based on a radical new automated solution within the drilling and exploration sector that is integrating cutting edge technologies. The idea was chosen based on an explicit market need, an enhanced technology to face the increasingly challenged environments in the arctic and deep sea. The market position Alpha is targeting is currently in a developing stage. The company’s strategic intent is to develop innovative technology, commercialise it, and eventually exit. The company was started by four founders, one of which is employed in the company; another is hired as a consultant, all four founders own equal shares. As funding for developing the product idea has been obtained in several stages the company has gradually grown. The ownership structure has changed several times, as a technology park, a professional investment fund, and lastly an oil company have invested in the company. In terms of commercialization, Alpha has started to commercialize the first module, which can serve both as an independent product and a vital part of the complete package they are developing. Beta was founded in 2003, but the idea was “born” and patented in 1999 by a researcher having worked in this specific field. The idea is described as a radical new solution that will position itself as a “game –changer” in the market. The company has developed in structured phases. First, the idea was brought to a venture company. A company with professional structure (board, management team etc.) was set up early on. The inventor quickly became a minor shareholder of the company and a team of different people worked with the idea. This phase was based on finding money to build the new technology and the company found partners in the petroleum industry who invested equal shares in the technology development, along with the Norwegian Research Council. The company raised substantial funds for the technology development through an initial public offering (IPO) early on. The current phase is characterised by organization building and the formulated strategic intent is to develop innovative technology, commercialise it and stay in the market providing drilling and exploration services. During the time of our study Beta has moved into the last stage of the product development. Both Alpha and Beta are developing products that we categorise as potential discontinuous innovations. Both firms are in a stage where the technology is mature enough to start the commercialization process. Table 2 describes Alpha and Beta as discontinuous innovations.
  13. 13. 13 Table 2: Alpha and Beta as discontinuous innovations Alpha Beta New world product Yes Yes,game changer New world technology Industry driven Integrating existing cutting edge technologies with robot technology. Develop new technical solutions and technology where none exists. Research driven, brand new technology. Also integrates existing technology into product New knowledge The technology development gives new knowledge about subsea robot operations. The technology development has given results that contests the established knowledge Spin out technology Yes Yes 4.2 Dynamic Capabilities and their microfoundations This section reveals the empirical findings related to our four propositions. The section is structured according to the propositions. Rich quotes from our interviewees illustrate the managerial experiences related to our conceptual framework, and are used to support our claims. The findings are summarized in Table 3 in the end of the section. Proposition 1: The product role will be a key microfoundation underlying dynamic capabilities. Focused technological development The product role refers to the focus of product innovation. Both cases studied here are product oriented, one will sell the product, the other will commercialize its’ product as a service encompassing the use of the technology, thus the product role is important. The product idea is a prerequisite for innovation, hence the origin of idea is also of some importance.
  14. 14. 14 ”The background wasthat we had a network, the four entrepreneurs, focusing on technology gaps in drilling and well technology. We got some funding from Norwegian Oil Company to make a report about which technologies could be interesting.And then we presented 7 technologies and ranked them, and Alpha was one of the projects,and it’s a bit funny because it wasn’t given that this would take us further.But Norwegian Oil Company put their head up and said that it could be very exciting to start on something like that.” (CEO, Alpha) The idea of Alpha came from mapping technology gaps, combined with a signaled customer need. Thus we see that the ability to identify a technology gap can be a microfoundation for developing dynamic capabilities. “What happened was that Venture Company took the idea and established Beta in 2003. To apply for this type of funding from the Research council it has to be company based, and in connection with this the ownership of the patent which was filed at the research institute was transferred to the company.” (CEO, Beta) The product idea for Beta was patented by a research institute, but no steps had been taken to commercialize it until the venture fund took initiative. The ability to act on ideas seems to be an important microfoundation in this venture. As Alpha and Beta are entrepreneurial companies the product idea has been the starting point for building the organization and the developing the product. As such the product idea is a basic microfoundation for developing all capabilities in the firms. As entrepreneurial firms with unfinished products the main priority is to get the product to work. The following quotes illustrate that developing the technology constitute the core processes in the firms. “When we are at work, we work with just one thing and very goal oriented, and I see at least for my part and for the people involved in the work that effectiveness is much higher. And I don’t think it would been possible to develop….that component we used one year fromwe started drawing until the prototype was ready. This would not have been possible in an ordinary manufacturing firm. I’m certain of it!” (CTO, Alpha) “The strength in it (the organizational model) is that it is a technology course. It is a focused technology course,which implies that our project team have one point and that is technology development.” (CEO, Beta) To summarize; the quotes support the notion that the product role in the firms is essential to develop dynamic capabilities. More specifically our data suggests that the product role seems to be an important microfoundation for innovative capabilities.
  15. 15. 15 Proposition 2: The process role will be a key microfoundation underlying dynamic capabilities. The process role describes to what degree the company addresses the ways products are developed and introduced to the market. This role is related to how the firm interacts with its environment in order to acquire resources. Our interviews contain rich information on how the entrepreneurial firms deal with two kinds of processes related to technology development. Searching for technology and selecting suppliers Alpha has applied technology searches in several other industries, including robotics, space and car industry. They identify technology from other industries, integrate, modify and develop it with petroleum technology for application in drilling and exploration activities. Thus, they make use of technology gaps between petroleum and other industries. The company uses suppliers ranging from local industry to international universities to help them develop and produce the individual components, which they then assemble. The CTO describes how they learn through their suppliers and in the process of selecting the suppliers. “We (make) specifications for how it will function, and then we approach three vendors. Then we ask “how would you have made it, and what will it cost us? What are the pros and cons?” And then we sit down and compare. Then we learn from all of them, and we can pick the one doing the best job.” (CTO, Alpha) Alpha has a strategy for what kind of traits they look for in their suppliers. They deliberate select suppliers who are open to try new things, are innovative and who understand their needs. They are extending the boundaries of their resource base, to encompass other firms and their competencies. ” …If they return with something that looksmuch as possible as what they made last time, then maybe they are not the right people. But if they come back with something and say ”oh,we think this is going to be the best for you”, that they’ve been thinking new technology. Then we’ll use them.” (CTO, Alpha) Making specifications for suppliers is part of the product development process. Having potential suppliers offering their solutions represents a way of comparing ideas and extending the resource base of the organization. Through this process the microfoundation of absorptive capacity is demonstrated. Alpha also works closely with research institutes. For example, they chose an American university to develop brand new components, based on their expertise but also on motivation:” … they seemvery responsive. They really want to and they are ready. It’s not like; “Oh yes, but we have to do a feasibility study to see if we are going to try to decide some time,” which is what you might run into other places. So they’ve been darned, like, we want to do this, this is exciting.” (CTO, Alpha) Beta uses technology searches in universities; developing technology to perform close to what they claim is theoretically feasible, as well as implementing technology from other industries. In order to handle technological challenges Beta outsources
  16. 16. 16 certain aspects of technology searches. Beta is constantly in the process of searching for technologies from other fields to be implemented: ”….So, it’s the whole... to hunt, to be curious, make use of other industries. Space, military technology,which has solutions,we are using valves in (the product) which are in Formula 1 cars and can endure extreme heat. And then we test it to the extreme, far more than we actually need.” (CEO, Beta) This kind of learning has do be documented in order to serve as an absorptive capability. Organizational learning is demonstrated in writing technical notes. These are used to document progress in technology development. “And what they are doing now, they are building competency. But we have to document this in technical notes, which we call it, in some form of documentation.” (CEO, Beta) There seems to be a difference between the two cases in the degree of involving partners. Whereas Alpha uses partners actively for developing the technology, Beta seems to use partners less actively. Alpha seems more open in their technology searches and interactions with their partners. The CEO in Beta told us that they are careful in protecting IP, names of employees are not on the web cite and the suppliers are not allowed to use the company as reference. Our impression is the Beta is more protective of their technology development and thus has less open interaction with actors in the environment. These observations suggest that Alpha and Beat are somewhat different in developing their absorptive capacity. Beta rely more on internal resources. Both companies use their environment for finding new technological solutions, thus the process role seem to underlie innovative capabilities. These quotes illustrate microfoundations underlying absorptive capability in the two companies. Our observations are in line with previous findings. The ability to learn from partners, to integrate external information and to transform it to the firm- embedded knowledge has been found to be positively associated with the performance outcomes especially in the oil and gas industry (Woiceshyn and Daellenbach, 2005). We found that the companies are constantly searching for new technology from other industries, to implement in their products. This shows that the microfoundations allowing dynamic capabilities to foster can be described as search for technology and selection of suppliers. Integrating innovative products with dominant technology Alpha’s technological strategy is to develop each module as a closed system. As explained by the CTO below, it is important that this system can easily be integrated with other equipment and existing technology. “If we go to another supplier and look at a drilling system, everything is integrated. They have a common power supply, common communication. They have a very integrated control system. This means that when running operations the main control is much more entangled,like one large systemwith many machines. We have a strict philosophy that every single machine shall be its’ own individual which will handle everything itself: all closed-loops, control loops all will be inside the machine.” (CTO, Alpha)
  17. 17. 17 Their sales argument is to make the technology as flexible as possible. This enables the firm to fit their product to all existing technologies within drilling technology and in operations from other suppliers. Thus, making the product integrative with existing technology seems to be a vital microfoundation for the ability to adapt the product to the market, i.e. adaptive capability. Thus, we may say that technical integration is a microfoundation of dynamic capabilities. The data from Beta do not support similar processes with integrating their technology with existing solutions. This is because their product intend to replace existing technology, hence they do not need to focus on this adaptability. We may conclude that Alpha demonstrates a microfoundation for adaptive capability here, which Beta does not need. This clearly shows that the need for developing dynamic capabilities varies between firms. Our data indicates that firm specific microfoundations work as antecedents for this need. Proposition 3: The position role will be a key microfoundation underlying dynamic capabilities As the position role deals with activities identifying and capitalizing on emerging market opportunities, our entrepreneurial firms reveal several types of microfoundations in commercializing their novel products. The following issues emerged through the interviews; Involving potential customers to participate in development of the product, collaboration with large organizations, gaining legitimacy through being visible. Involving potential customers to participate in development of the product During interviews, both companies stressed the importance of involving potential customers into the development of the product. This may improve the product and increase the chances for first sale to these customers. Interestingly, these potential customers are also partners in technology development. Alpha developed capabilities to involve potential customers into the project. As one outcome of these efforts, the Norwegian Oil Company has invested money in the product development. This increases the chances for first sale. “One advantage is that we work together with the industrial development department of Norwegian Oil Company, having a program committing the use of technology. They can commit to use the first part, and after that it will be a commercial transaction. When being involved in this program, the product is tested as a pilot, without competition fromanybody else. When the pilot is tested then you are on commercial terms and have to compete.” (CEO, Alpha) Thus, involving potential customers in product development is a microfoundation enabling adaptive capability in terms of getting knowledge about the need of the customer. In this case the customer is also a partner in a project funded by the research council. They have invested in the company and they are making their internal expertise available for Alpha.
  18. 18. 18 An informant in Beta describes the challenges of getting potential customers committed to the product idea: ”.. The challenge is to find a partner who is a customer, industrial partner or a technologically expert. One who senses the idea, understands the needs, and who is willing to develop the idea with the owner. Call it customer based, orindustry based innovation development. It’s crucial.” (CFO, Beta) According to our informants, getting approval from potential customers is an important factor for pre-appraisal of the innovative product, and can stimulate innovative processes. Both companies have succeeded in involving potential customers to invest in product development; Alpha has one whereas Beta have three petroleum companies involved. Close relations with potential customers also gives access to important resources, as technical know-how and funding. The data indicates that that position role of involving customers is an important microfoundation underpinning the development of the adaptive capability. Challenges in size: Collaboration with large organizations Communication addresses the challenge of positively transferring the knowledge of the new innovative product to the market. Given the smallness and newness of entrepreneurial firms collaboration with larger organizations may prove difficult. In this industry our two firms, each with less than 20 employees, interact closely with international petroleum companies. Such companies are the organizations, with the smallest one comprising about 30.000 employees and is present in over 40 countries. To face this challenge, our companies need to identify the right departments, managerial and technical staff. This actualizes personal relations and networking to access the key functions in the petroleum companies. A further challenge is managing the different communication flow in large organizations compared to their small entrepreneurial firms. A “double” sales strategy was described, targeting both directors who supervise money and budget and technology departments. This is described as a sensitive process since one needs to make sure that these two parties meet internally in the organization and that engineers and managers have the right information for their needs. This way they may be perceived as important external resources to their potential customers. Our informants have a similar understanding of how a large industrial bureaucracy like Norwegian Oil Company works. Both Alpha and Beta have managed to develop a special capability to approach this challenge. ”Norwegian Oil Company is a large organization. Often one person doesn’t talk to another person because he doesn’t know that he is sitting there. So therefore we have to be very active ourselves and use our network… Also, there are constantly new people coming in to Oil Company, who may not be able to see the value or make the decision. That’s why it’s very important to pick the few decision makers there are there. It is a lot of work for us.Basically we try to use the network, use the people in
  19. 19. 19 Norwegian Oil Company we are working with, and also other resource persons and former employees.We use themto find the best way entry the right people.” (CEO, Alpha) Beta has hired people who know the industry from inside, which enables them to build reciprocal dialog with potential customers: ”So I think the competence I have wasa bit attractive because I had knowledge of oil companies’ way of thinking and doing business. So you easily enter a good dialogue, get mutual respect. .. and that meansa lot, since they are oursuper customers. I think this has been of great value.” (CEO, Alpha) The ability to negotiate with large petroleum companies is based on the knowledge of the system and concrete people. Our companies use their network – either personal or through third parties, to find their way in these negotiation processes. Therefore, networking is one of the important micro-foundations of adaptive capability. Gaining legitimacy: The art of being visible Legitimacy is essential to the survival of new firms (Zimmerman and Zeitz, 2002). One way of meeting the challenge of legitimacy is to become visible, to create a name and a good reputation. Alpha illustrated how third part approval of their product idea has been important in building legitimacy for the company. “The innovation prize says,” ok maybe you’ve got something here”. The patent says “this is innovative”.When Norwegian Oil Company commits research money, then it’s definitely worth having a look at. Also when The Research Council says “this is on top of ourlist, and within the area we support”. Then it’s a validation for you, which is very important for us.” (CEO, Alpha) Being visible to the industry means that potential customers are familiar with the technology, thus more open:.….”It’s extremely important if you want to sell something, that the customer have heard the company name before.If not you are not likely to buy it. If you’ve heard about it once before, then you are likely to have a total different attitude….Being in the papers, and on the “Offshore Northern Seas”, exhibiting and so on is extremely important because then people have at least heard the name before.Always being visible is an important part of our strategy.”(CEO, Alpha) The quotes illustrates that Alpha position their role so as to being visible to the industry and potential customers. This microfoundation enhances the firm’s adaptive capability. This adaptive capability is in fact a process making the market and industry adapt to their technology. Beta also has funding from the Norwegian Research Council as well as from three large petroleum companies, they have won an innovation prize, they participate in exhibitions, periodically report progress and financial situation to their shareholders. Beta has developed a routine for being visible as a result of being on the stock exchange. Being publicly listed also means they have to be careful with how information is communicated and to whom, to avoid insider-trading. However, the
  20. 20. 20 technology is still openly discussed with the technology partners, as a way of building trust, but also to exchange technological know-how. This company has a relatively high profile, and seem to have a successful image so far. It has been presented as a good example in different forums. They also try to create enthusiasm for their innovation. ”In general two people speak forthe company externally, the CEO and the CFO.And since we are a joint stock company it has to be that way.But relating to customers we are very concerned that they have as good a knowledge of the technology as possible. That they are familiar with what we are developing, and they talk about our collaboration partners, except the ones on the steering committee. We’re sort of doing “missionary work”, and informing in wide forums to create enthusiasm, rapture and resources.” (BM, Beta) Compared to Alpha this firm is more restrictive, likely due to being publicly listed. This exemplifies a difference in microfoundations between Alpha and Beta due to structural differences. Again, we see that this may affect different needs for dynamic capabilities. Both are dependent on legitimacy, but it proves differently due to structural constraints in being listed. Organizational transformation for commercializing Both Beta and Alpha are conscious of how they position themselves in the market. As the companies’ first product is getting closer to commercialization, the companies transform their organizations for meeting this challenge. The CEO in Alpha describes how they identify key positions in the customer organization and present the product for them. This represents a tangible step in the commercialization process. “Now we are going to identify the right people on these platforms that we know will be the likely first users, and then we will have presentations for them” (CEO, Alpha). The CEO stresses the importance of having contact with both “bosses” as well as with the technical personnel “… because the boss he will say, “yeah, it looks really great, but get the technical people to approve it”. And then it will come. I always think it is better to approach both these groups.” (CEO, Alpha) The company is also transforming their organization by adding a new function in industrial sales. “…In the beginning it will be part time work, by partly new people and partly by myself, more or less. And then as I said when we are doing the second sale, then it really starts. The first sale like a pilot, I think we have to use the resources that we already have and some new resources.We have made an agreement to get some new part time resources. But when we have done the first sale, we will start building; one business development manager full time.” (CEO, Alpha) Alpha has engaged one of its board members, who are also a former petroleum company executive to work part time in industrial sales. Thus, the firm is utilizing part of the rich resource base which is represented by the board of executives. Using experienced personnel who are well versed in the industry gives the company a
  21. 21. 21 quicker start when setting up new functions, and demonstrates an important step to reposition the company. Thus it provides a microfoundation for adaptive capability by changing and extending the mode of organizing (cf. Rindova and Kohta, 2001). Beta has more capital in their resource base and has chosen a different strategy for repositioning the organization. “If everything had gone according to the original plan, then we would have been correctly positioned today. Since we have the capital base, we can allow ourselves to be ahead of the technology development. Rather that than the other way around. It would be a disaster if we suddenly arrived at a robust technological solution, and then we lack the structures supporting it.” (CEO, Beta) Where Alpha develops commercialization capabilities timed with the progress of the product technology, Beta has already developed several functions necessary for a supplier firm. However Beta is still in a pre- commercialization stage. Again, the cases illustrate differences in microfoundations due to structural conditions as capital base. . Proposition 4: The paradigm role will be a key microfoundation underlying dynamic capabilities. In order to consistently solve problems and develop new technical solutions, products and enhance and improve processes there needs to be an infrastructure in place. Francis and Bessant (2005) describe this as paradigm and refer to the inner (type A) and the outer (type B) paradigm. In this section we have identified two types of paradigm developments that might induce increased innovation and problem solution activities. The first is called “strategies for human capital”. This we label a type A development because it relates to organizational and values and people management policies (Francis and Bessant, 2005). The second type of paradigm development is called “structuring for innovation”. This is labelled a type B development since it relates to constructs used by managers to understand their firm and shape its development (Francis and Bessant, 2005). Strategic intent According to Francis and Bessant (2005) the paradigm roles consists of an outer and an inner type. The strategic intent of the company has to do with both these roles as it influences the inner paradigm as in human resources, culture etc. as well as the outer paradigm in terms of development of structures and business model. Alpha has a clear exit strategy: “…at some point in time there will be either a sale ora merger or a joint venture or something like that. Our core competence is early phase, cutting edge technology innovation. Technology development. That’s what these people have been selected for.” (CEO, Alpha) Beta has another strategy as it will build an organization that will be larger innovative company remaining in Norwegian ownership. This is as a response to what the CEO
  22. 22. 22 labels as lack of capability in Norway to bring high technology companies into the international arena. "Our strategy is not to be acquisitioned by others.We are going to have the production capacity,we're going to have the competence,we're going to have direct customer relations,we're going to have the services and the organization needed." (CEO, Beta ) On the basis of the strategic intent, employees are selected and recruited and structures are formed. Strategies for human capital According to Francis and Bessant (2005) the second type of paradigm role for innovation is the inner – directed paradigm, which target the firm’s values and human resource practices. Well known from the entrepreneurial literature is the effect of human capital on resource acquisition, and business performance. In the following we will show how the two firms use the inner- directed paradigm in building dynamic capabilities for human resource management. Alpha has a clear preference related to human capital: the company is conscious of recruiting people who are open to innovation, if they are too much into traditional technology it is difficult to get the high degree of innovation needed in the product. “Important in this technology development, is that it is innovation projects. It’s ”state of the art”. That’s why it’s important to hire innovation people. If they remain too much in traditional technology, it’s hard to get high degree of innovation. The same goes for ourcollaborative partners.They’re chosen because they show an enthusiasm for innovation, new approaches and things like that.” (CEO, Alpha) ”And we’re very much based on consultants. Because it takes a long time to build staff. So you could say we are six employees and in principle six man-years working as consultants for the company.” (CEO, Alpha) In Alpha the product development is organized in a multi skilled team working together: “… we don’t have anyone who is somebody else’s boss, here everybody has their own field of expertise. One engineer is in charge of mechanical engineering, another one has control systems, one is working on the simulatorside and so on. So it’s really a multi skilled team working together.”(CEO, Alpha) Organizing product development in a team facilitates open communication and a relatively flat organizational structure. Consciously focusing on human resource management for creativity may in turn affect the organization culture, and thus become a micro foundation for a firm’s innovative capability. Beta has a more diversified organization, also in terms of acquiring human capital.
  23. 23. 23 “ The ”Phd department” works very long termwith modelling and that kind of thing, and then there is a more technical group, who work intensively to get this tool to work. The scope is somewhat different.” (CEO, Beta) Regarding human capital Beta’s strategy begins with recruiting experienced personnel. ”The starting point is that we recruit senior people with experience first. They build these two different parts of ourorganization. Then they handpick people they have experience orworked with. In addition, we recruit some young people who haven’t made all these experiences. Sometimes, you need to have somebody asking stupid questions. You have to challenge established practice. Young people are good in doing this because they don’t take anything for given. There has to be a mix between these two groups. To have the experienced people get in place first and have them let them shape things has turned out very well in our firm.” (BM, Beta) Furthermore, their first priority is hiring, second using external expertise: “In some cases there is competence you really would have liked to have in the organization. Because these persons already are in a favourable situation (they will soon be retired, orneed to work in a network to keep up their competence) you are not able to employ them. But we want link them to the company as tight as possible so that all the know-how will be shared and remain in the firm.” (BM, Beta) It can be concluded that acquiring human capital with innovative skills is an important micro-foundation for innovative capability. Furthermore, the ability to access competencies outside the organization itself, through consultants (another way of acquiring human capital) seems also important. Our two firms seem to have a similar perception of this, though they have developed different team sizes and have different strategies in terms of hiring and using consultants. Structuring for innovation Managers shape and develop their organization. In small entrepreneurial companies, managers have more influence of the course of the organization development. Both Alpha and Beta are established around an innovative idea and thus building infrastructure that might support the development of the idea is of crucial importance. Both Alpha and Beta raise the topic of the importance of permitting the technology developer to work freely and protected from pressures of the market situation. For example Beta has completely separated the project development process from the commercialization in order to face the challenge of meeting the deadlines and continuing the technological progress: ”We are in a business world, since we are a joint stock company. Then we have the technology world. To us it’s very important to shield the technology world, so that they can focus on their stuff.… There is a mutual respect between those two worlds: The technology group in our company understands that it’s the company management and the commercial world that decides at the end of the day.And aslong as we have
  24. 24. 24 progress, according to a plan, they run their course and we do what we can to shield them.” (CFO, Beta) Beta has been through reorganization of the organizational structure during our study. The main aim was to focus the technology development even more, and to shield it from the commercial parts of the organization. The motivation for this was also led by the fact that they were using more time to develop the technology than foreseen in their project plans. This put more strains on the organization, also financially, and forced them to focus their activities. This is an example of reconfiguration of resources and protection of the technological development process from market pressure to facilitate innovative dynamic capability. Also Alpha is aware of the importance of shielding the different processes in the firm in able to have focus on technical solution and product development. The company has a relatively flat structure where each person is responsible for a separate technical field and reports to the CEO. However, while technical problems are openly discussed, more strategic issues are decided by the management and the board of directors. It seems that this firm has developed a separating capability to deal with the commercialization issue as well, as described above. “…these kinds of things I normally discuss with the board of directors. In that forum we agree how we do the big lines. So that’sreally howwe make these decisions. The strategic decisions I make together with the board of directors.” (CEO, Alpha) The strategy of separating the development from other processes in the firm gives results according to employees at Alpha: “No matter how you twist and turn it, the largest obstacle in all development projects is to be allowed to focuson the project and be able to control the resources. When I started in Alpha,the pace that we developed the product in was new to me. I have never seen it happen before. But it is because we just work on one thing here. This is development! We have no customers, nothing like that! We are allowed to have focus. It’s a different agenda.” (CTO, Alpha) Both companies have separated the strategic decision making from the technological development process. Beta it may be argued that protecting the technological development from market pressures is an important component for focusing the technological development and thus enhancing the innovative capability of the firm. Open exchanges with the potential first customers also gives input to the innovation process. For Alpha it may be argued that the relatively open process with inputs from suppliers, research institutes and customers, makes a richer resource base of knowledge and know how to enhance the innovation process.
  25. 25. 25 Table 3: Microfoundations of Dynamic Capabilities of Discontinuous Innovations Microfoundations Alpha Beta Product Focused technological development Established around theproduct idea Established around theproduct idea Process Searching for technology and selecting suppliers Suppliers are essential in developing technology Protect confidentiality of technology. Do not involve outside partners. Outsources technology searches Integrating innovative products with dominant technology Uses their connections with a petroleum company to gain access to practical drilling expertise. Created a technical steering committee with three potentialcustomers who monitor their technology development Position Involving potential customers in the development of the product Carefully works with involving innovative –oriented partners Involve potentialcustomers to oversee the development, but do not directly use expertise of customers Challenges in size: Collaborating with large organizations. Expresses concerns that petroleum companies have the upper hand in negotiations. Expresses the importance of using the same “codes” as their customer, speak the same language Gaining legitimacy; theart of being visible Mindfulof the importance of acceptance of technology and procedures from the market. Aware of the importance of having trust from investors and stakeholders Organizational transformation for commercializing Aware of the importance of sales personnel Development of organization to meet customers needs Paradigm Strategic Intent Exit strategy. Organizational development to meet technological development and needs “World domination” building for the future. Currently restructuring to be more technology focused Strategies for human capital Search for key employees, use consultants, all innovative- oriented Very conscious of employing people with an innovative mindset Structuring for innovation Technical staff is allowed to work without exposure to market pressures. Separates the technical staff from the market
  26. 26. 26 5. Discussion The perspective and approach of our research taken is based on the need to better understand for the origins and development of dynamic capabilities in the context of commercialising discontinuous innovations in new entrepreneurial firms. We narrow our scope of study to investigate the essential microfoundations of dynamic capabilities. Hence, this involves how a new firm’s microfoundations play a pivotal role in developing discontinuous innovation. We differ from previous research that examines capabilities within entrerpreneurial firms (e.g., McKelvie and Davidsson, 2009) by examining the origins and microfoundations of dynamic capabilities within early-stage firms where the development of capabilities have yet to fully materialize. Empirical studies so far have focused on the processes established firms are struggling with. Established firms already have a product or service, already have customers, employees and an established organization structure. Thus, the focus has been on how they change to fit with the changing environment rather than on how they are initially developed. Recently, Ambrosini and Bowman (2009) have argued that additional research should be conducted to better understand the underlying antecedents and consequences of dynamic capabilities. Additionally, Helfat et al. (2007) assert that “prior literature has placed less emphasis on the underlying processes that an organization requires in order to move from its starting position to a new or adjusted path.” This means that in addition to identifying dynamic capabilities, research must also focus on how and when they develop. The present perspective explored how managers and their teams develop dynamic capabilities conditioned by the microfoundations they are engaged in. Additionally, we align the microfoundations investigated within a framework of discontinuous innovation. We adopted a framework and offer propositions based on the innovation research advanced by Francis and Bessant (2005) that is similar to the central processes that underlie the creation of dynamic capabilities. Thus, research on how capabilities are developed based on the context of discontinuous innovation was needed. In our interviews, we found evidence that four different types of microfoundations – product, process, position, and paradigm were present in each of our firms. Each of these microfoundations were concrete activities in the firms. More specifically, they described how they, among other things, conduct technology searches and incorporate technology from other industries into their products, work with universities and research institutes (nationally, regionally, and internationally), gain knowledge from customers, use customers to open doors to enable them to learn from existing players, acquire funding, and recruit personnel with the right background. While both firms are developing innovative and technically advanced products, they did differ in the manner in which they participated in each of the four microfoundational roles (as shown in Table 3). In order to succeed, they differ somewhat in how they absorb knowledge from other industries, involve creative and innovatively orient partners or suppliers, and recruit innovative-oriented people, to name a few. Common for both firms were the search for new technology; however due to Beta’s innovation being more research based, their search is explicitly on research-based knowledge. Alpha seems to exhibit a wider range of partnership involvement,
  27. 27. 27 including those with suppliers and potential customers in addition to research institutes and university. Our data also reveals a rich picture of the firm-specific microfoundations associated with the roles of position and paradigm. With regard to the position, we found that the microfoundations are related to both involving potential customers in the development of the product, collaborating with large organizations, gaining legitimacy through being visible and repositioning their organization for commercialization. With regard to paradigm the Alpha and Beta differed in their strategic intent, their strategies for acquiring human capital and how they structured their organization for innovation. Our data also indicates that the transformation of the organization through employees, the reconfiguration of the board, being visible and networking are essential process and position microfoundations for how the firms respond to the market and external resources. The organization becomes visible because it makes use of the knowledge that external actors posit and integrates into the organization. These microfoundation are strengthened by the firms’ active role in search for employees, board members and information through their network and being visible. Our findings clearly showed how the firms used their adaptive capabilities differently in response to differences in their situation. We have also shown how creating an “imbalance” between the progress of the product and the progress in building the organization (paradigm) can contribute to further strain on the organization as in Beta. Because such innovations are marked with a high technical and market uncertainty it becomes essential that the building firm legitimacy and reputation can reduce this uncertainty. Clearly, the issue of legitimacy building in commercializing discontinuous innovation deserves more research attention. We may conclude that this study in several ways add to existing research on shedding light on the complex processes of adaptation when firms face change in technological and market conditions (Verona and Ravasi, 2003). Our findings reveal that the microfoundations seem to foster various dynamic capabilities such as absorptive, adaptive and innovative. We also see that in the case of emerging firms often elements that are important to facilitate absorptive and adaptive capabilities are enhancing the innovative capabilities as well. We can also modify our propositions to include the following: Proposition 1: The product role will be a key microfoundation underlying innovative dynamic capability Proposition 2: The process role will be a key microfoundation underlying absorptive dynamic capability Proposition 3: The position role will be a key microfoundation underlying adaptive dynamic capability Proposition 4: The paradigm role will be a key microfoundation underlying innovative dynamic capability These findings extend prior research and provide empirical evidence for the role of micofoundations for building dynamic capabilities in new emerging firms.
  28. 28. 28 6. Conclusion Entrepreneurial Firm and Managerial Implications As this research concerns with what managers in new firms actually do and how dynamic capabilities in practice are created and developed, a strategy-as-practice lens (Jarzabkowski et al., 2007; Johnson et al., 2003) was employed in this study. The interview material provide rich narrative quotes revealing managerial experience in how the role of product, process, position and paradigm serve as assets for developing dynamic capabilities in the process of commercializing their innovations. This is important in order to research how dynamic capabilities must be well targeted and deployed towards achieving strategic goals (cf. Zahra et. al., 2006). In our interview and findings, the idea of new technologies and new ways of doing things can be found in each of our four microfoundations of the product, process, position, and paradigm functions that serve as the origins of the creation of dynamic capabilities for discontinous innovation. At the very basic role of the product, our firms use a number of novel approaches that can be adopted and employed by other firms as they adapt their technology, price/value their innovation, and minimize the risk for their customers. As for the other microfoundation roles, both position and process become important, particularly as the firm begins to test the market with its initial product technology. The importance of building legitimacy with several of their approaches along with ensuring a power balance with future customers and suppliers should also be considered in the early stages of an entrepreneurial organization’s development and future growth. Equally important is the microfoundation concerning process, particularly as the business identifies new partners in furthering their technology and finding new markets. Internal processes related to organizational development, culture, recruitment and selection that can foster commitment and buy-in for those responsible for implementing and extending the firm’s innovation over time. The managerial take-away of this paper is that entrepreneurial firms may take deliberate steps in developing strong capabilities through carefully paying attention to their firm specific foundations. The findings in this study support the notion that the positioning plays an important role in developing adaptive capabilities. By involving potential customers to participate in development of the new product, collaborating with larger organizations, gaining legitimacy by being visible and reposition the organization for commercialization, managers adapt more quickly to the demanding external environment and align their internal resources to handle the challenges of commercialization. To develop an awareness of a firms’ internal resources or lack thereof may prove to be an important managerial task in developing specific strategies for how to develop the organization towards commercializing the product. This study points to that networking skills, customer orientation, building of human capital are important microfoundations in this process. Thus this study is our first step to give a contribution to how entrepreneurial firms must manage capabilities to gain performance- related benefits (cf. Zahra et al., 2006).
  29. 29. 29 Theoretical Implications and Future Research Directions With our cases,we are at the very early nascent stages of their businesses where they are merely beginning to develop their own dynamic capabilities related to commercialisation. A longitudinal case study approach consisting of the continuation of interviews with the founders and successors will assist and enable us to examine further the microfoundations and dynamic capabilities of discontinuous innovation. Until then, we base our early assumptions on the initial microfoundations these firms used in launching their ventures and first initial successes in prototype development. That said, this research is one of the first to investigate the role of the microfoundations of dynamic capabilities of discontinuous innovation of nascent yet emerging entrepreneurial firms. Our study extends prior research in producing empirically grounded dimensions of microfoundations, a concept that barely has received empirical attention since the contribution of Teece (2007). In applying the framework of targeting innovation through product, process, position and paradigm to Francis and Bessant (2005) this study integrates literature on dynamic capability literature to that of innovation. The implications of our propositions for future research is to refine the theoretical arguments for the link between microfoundations, various forms of dynamic capabilities and the more specific challenges related to commercialization of discontinous innovation. This explorative case study covering a time span of six months do not allow for the studying the effect of microfoundations and dynamic capabilities for the first sale of the product. Future research should refine the framework and propositions used in this study and develop theoretical arguments for the link of the specifical dimensions of microfoundations, dynamic capabilities to that of commercialization as shown in our revised propositions (p. 27). The methodological contribution of this paper has been to provide empirically grounded managerial knowledge and experience on some recent concepts. However, only longitudinal studies allow for a more comprehensive follow up of this case study. The need for longitudinal case studies is also in accordance with the view among scholars in the field (McKelvie and Davidsson 2009; Wang and Ahmed 2007). New Opportunities for Continual Research While the four types of microfoundations of dynamic capabilities may be visible across different firms, it is reasonable to suggest that some of the microfoundations differ in development and depth depending on the firm’s mode and stage of innovation. While we do not have the capacity to assess this directly within our study because of the early stage of development of our firms, future research may want to assess the four microfoundations based on the mode of innovation (from incremental to radical).
  30. 30. 30 Figure 2: Microfoundations and Mode of Innovation Researchers should also recognize that firms vary significantly in their origins, strategy, and goals. Different founding conditions may cause ventures to evolve differently and, as a result, to develop different types of learning capabilities at various stages of their evolution (Vohora et al., 2004). Many of these variables are likely to shape how these ventures create and reconfigure their microfoundations and build different dynamic capabilities at different stages of their evolution. Mahoney (2005) stresses the importance of differences in teams in their firm-specific experiences as a key source of innovation, especially in transforming capabilities and resources to a key source of innovation that fosters organizational growth. As the research continues, our work has the opportunity for an engaged scholarship approach that crosses multiple disciplines in business and science and adopts a reciprocal, collaborative relationship with industry to inform, disseminate, and share many of the leading and emerging practices on the commercialization of innovation. As such, our own research approach becomes dynamic and in multiple ways is characteristic of how our own firms integrate and leverage their own learning to assess and build the microfoundations that underlie organizational capabilities to deliver measureable results and market innovations.
  31. 31. 31 APPENDIX Table 1: Characteristics of the firms Alpha Beta Founded 2005 2003 Idea Industry based (from technology foresight) Research based Technology Patented Patented Competence in firm CEO with engineering and business degrees, 10 year experience in innovation/technology development. Team with different industrial backgrounds and experienced in technology development. Board of directors: “seniors” from industry, and investors. 4 board members hold total of 48 board memberships. Substantial resource base for company CEO with background from petroleum company and supplier industry. Seniors with long industry backgrounds, combined with “fresh” PhD’s Board of directors: “seniors” from industry, and investors. 5 board members hold total of 46 board memberships. Substantial resource base for company Market niche Drilling and exploration technology Exploration technology Number of employees 6 employees, 6 consultants 17 Founder One of the founders work in the company, another is hired as a consultant Owns 1.3% of company, not active Ownership structure Venture fund: 28% Founders: 14% each Others: 15% (this has changed during our project) On Oslo stock exchange Planned commercialisation Relations with potential customers 2009 (first product) Petroleum company has bought substantial share in Planned start 2009, postponed Has development, and right of first refusal contract with three petroleum companies
  32. 32. 32 company Prototype made First product, working on second Sept. 2008 Product estimated ready for market First product spring 2009 Complete product in 2013 End of 2010 Strengths of technology Minimizes cost and increases safety, less environmental damage Increased automation, reduced risk to personnel. Technology also fits with existing interfaces. Take market niche where available technology does not function well Minimizes cost, less environmental damage. Radical new technology (game changer)
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