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Ordered to Innovate: A Longitudinal Examination of the Early Periods of a New Product Development Process Implementation in a Manufacturing Firm


  • Serdar S. Durmuşoğlu,

  • Roger J. Calantone,

  • Regina C. McNally

Address correspondence to: Serdar S. Durmuşoğlu, Management and Marketing Department, School of Business Administration, University of Dayton, 703 Miriam Hall, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469-2271. E-mail: Tel: 937-229-3540.


Firms can generate rather long-lasting growth spurts through continuous innovation. Moreover, literature suggests that, when growing organically, firm performance is enhanced through a revenue expansion emphasis encompassing new-to-the-world or new-to-the-firm physical goods or service augmentations. This organic approach usually outperforms cost-reduction programs, which often yield minor improvements to existing products; or an emphasis on simultaneous revenue expansion and cost reduction. While this finding has the major implication that firms should focus and generate more radical new products for long-term success, there is need for research that investigates how firms should implement the strategy change to organic growth via innovation. The authors present a case study, which suggests that in the short run, it might be better to commence a revenue expansion strategy by focusing on incremental new product development (NPD) efforts, rather than focusing too much on new-to-the-world or new-to-the-firm products. Moreover, analyses of the rich, multimethod data, collected over a two-and-a-half-year interaction with the focal firm, illustrates that to increase success prospects of an organic innovation strategy, managers should not only engage incrementally innovative new product projects initially, but also ensure proficiency in commercializing the new product with cross-functional NPD teams. Thus, in early stages of organization transformation, the merits of the organic growth strategy will be swiftly demonstrated, the cross-functional teaming skills are learned and tested, and the new strategy becomes institutionalized. While somewhat contradictory to other studies on this topic, this more evolutionary exploration provides a new perspective for organizational change, especially when a firm is ordered to innovate. In conclusion, the insights gleaned in this study shed light on the journey from stagnating firm to a successful serial innovator via formalized NPD process implementation.

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