Capturing and (re)interpreting complexity in multi-firm disruptive product innovations
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Purpose – This case study research report aims to include collecting additional field interviews with the original and additional executives participating in the original case study (on the Zaplet software applications firm) to enhance the interpretations by the original case study investigators as well as add-in downstream events occurring after the original report. The focus of the study is to increase descriptive knowledge and understanding of innovation and diffusion processes in developing high-tech disruptive software technologies. Design/methodology/approach – The study includes an application of the long-interview method and reinterpretation of original case data along with preparing and interpreting decision system analysis and chronological maps. Findings – The reinterpretation and expansion of the original case study illustrate dramatic revisions in plans and implementing new applications following positive and negative responses by third-parties and lead-user customers to alpha and beta designs. Concrete field trials occur frequently in shaping where and how the firm goes about changing its direction. Third-parties play critical roles in multiple time periods in shaping the firm's new product development direction.Research limitations/implications – The case study reanalysis and expansion are generalizable to innovation and diffusion theory and not to a specific population of firms. Practical implications – The paper illustrates the wisdom of Tom Peter's dictum, “Put it to tin quickly” and Dwight Eisenhower's focus on improvising, “The plan is nothing, planning is everything.” Originality/value – Formal sensemaking of what happened helps to destroy the myth that executives must have the resources before innovating. Resources follow vision and action (implementing) is the hidden and great lesson of this paper – what Tom Peters means when he writes about the value in creating a “skunk works” – using “borrowed” time, material, places, and creative juices to make things happen.
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