Accepted Paper:

Open innovation as framing device: The productive function of management fads in innovation  


Thomas Østerlie (NTNU Social Research)
Catharina Lindheim
Randi Ann Fagerholt
Gunhild Foss Heggem (NTNU Social Sciences)

Paper long abstract:

Open innovation (OI) has recently received considerable attention within industry as well as within innovation studies (IS). At the same time, it is criticized for being yet another management fad with limited, if any, positive effect on organizations' ability to do innovation. Combining IS' interest in OI with STS theory, we contend that management fads such as OI may also have a productive function for doing innovation in organizations.

We draw upon the case of developing an online innovation portal within a multi-national corporation to empirically elaborate how this. The case is based upon materials collected through sustained engagement with research and development in this corporation over the past five years. We approach open innovation as a management fashion made up of an emergent collection of more or less stable abstractions exemplified through narratives, and circulated through books and articles, through seminars, conferences, workshops, project meetings. Focus of the analysis is on the role and function played by elements of this hybrid ensemble in the materialization of open innovation as organizational practice.

We find that talking about the innovation portal as OI frames ongoing activities within the corporation in particular ways; it acts somewhat as a 'framing device'. Focus shifts towards activities resonating with aspects of the model, while activities not resonating with the model are seen as less relevant to the corporation. Framing the portal as OI yields legitimacy to the portal, forwarding it as a point of mobilization for multiple interests within the corporation.

Panel K2
Cross-breeding science and technology studies and innovation studies