Insights From Family Science: The Case of Innovation


  • Christopher R. Penney,

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    • Christopher R. Penney is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Information Systems, College of Business, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, USA.
  • James G. Combs

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    • James G. Combs is the Will and Maggie Brooke Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Department of Management and Marketing, Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA.

Please send correspondence to: Christopher R. Penney, tel.: (662) 325-1994; e-mail: and to James G. Combs at


By explaining processes through which familiness affects innovation, Carnes and Ireland take an important step toward explaining prior mixed findings. Their research also underscores the heterogeneity of families in that different family firms have different innovative outcomes. We adapt the circumplex model from family science research to help explain which families might innovate. Our larger purpose, however, is to offer a small example of the kind of theory building that we believe will be necessary for family businesses researchers to fully leverage insights from family science.