The role of narratives in sustaining organizational innovation

Caroline A. Bartel, Raghu Garud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

223 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sustaining innovation is a vital yet difficult task. Innovation requires the coordinated efforts of many actors to facilitate (1) the recombination of ideas to generate novelty, (2) real-time problem solving, and (3) linkages between present innovation efforts with past experiences and future aspirations. We propose that innovation narratives are cultural mechanisms that address these coordination requirements by enabling translation. Specifically, innovation narratives are powerful mechanisms for translating ideas across the organization so that they are comprehensible and appear legitimate to others. Narratives also enable people to translate emergent situations that are ambiguous or equivocal so as to promote real-time problem solving. With their accumulation, innovation narratives provide a generative memory for organizations that enable people to translate ideas accumulated from particular instances of past innovation to inform current and future efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-117
Number of pages11
JournalOrganization Science
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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