Innovation through tradition: Lessons from innovative family businesses and directions for future research
De Massis A
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In steering toward the future, innovation managers are commonly advised to dismiss the old and make way for the new. However, such "recency bias" may significantly limit a firms innovation potential and prevent it from realizing the benefits of past knowledge. We argue that the temporal dimension of innovation deservesmore research attention. Combining prior research on innovation, dynamic capabilities, and family business, we conceptualize a new product innovation strategy called innovation through tradition (ITT) and identify its underlying capabilities of interiorizing and reinterpreting past knowledge. We analyze and discuss the illustrative cases of six long-lasting family businesses (Aboca, Apreamare, Beretta, Lavazza, Sangalli, and Vibram), exemplifying how firms that build long-lasting and intimate links with their traditions can be extremely innovativewhile remaining firmly anchored to the past. These examples help readers visualize theoretical concepts and recognize the potential advantages of past knowledge in terms of value creation and capture. We develop an agenda for future research aimed at improving our understanding of the temporal search processes involved in the ITT strategy, within and outside the family business field, and thus contribute to innovation and organizational learning studies. Managers of nonfamily firms can learn from the family businesses that successfully use ITT to create and nurture a competitive advantage and emulate them by leveraging rather than discarding tradition. © Academy of Management Perspectives.
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