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Nothing to fear but fear itself: How emotion can affect the pursuit of novel technological opportunities in incumbent organizations

GOLDING, CHRISTOPHER,CLAYBURN (2021) Nothing to fear but fear itself: How emotion can affect the pursuit of novel technological opportunities in incumbent organizations. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Although the pursuit of novel technological opportunities and innovation are vital for the survival and prosperity of organizations, research has shown that incumbents often struggle to capitalize on such opportunities despite seeming well placed to do so. Extant scholarship has identified a number of structural and cognitive factors that might explain why incumbents are (not) able to successfully deliver novelty to the marketplace, however there has been a relative paucity of research which considers the emotional factors involved in this process. This oversight is notable, given evidence that cognition and emotion are fundamentally intertwined. Moreover, the literature has failed to explicate how exactly managers should communicate these opportunities, in order to gain the attention and support of key decision-makers. To address these limitations, a 24-month single case study traces the efforts of a multi-technology incumbent, TechCorp (pseudonym), as they attempt to commercialize quantum key distribution (QKD), a particularly novel form of encryption technology. The findings of this study suggest that the pursuit of novel technologies in incumbent firms is highly emotional, characterised and propelled forwards by distinct forms of fear. In this respect, this thesis challenges the prevailing view that fear impedes the pursuit of novelty and innovation, instead arguing that fear can motivate managers to approach technological opportunities when these technologies are perceived as a viable way to escape a feared threat. As such, three main contributions are offered: (1) To provide a more balanced account of fear in the pursuit of novelty and innovation, suggesting under what conditions and how it may lead managers to engage with or reject novel technological opportunities, as well as how fear may exist in different forms (fear of failure and fear of missing out); (2) To suggest that how managers communicate technological opportunities emotionally may depend on their position in the organizational structure, with operational and middle managers potentially needing to use negative emotions to capture the attention of key decision-makers and compel them to act; (3) To show how decision-makers may become ambivalent and indecisive towards novel technologies, but that such indecision may paradoxically aid the development and emergence of novel technologies.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Novelty; Technological Opportunities; Innovation Process; Emotion; Fear; Cognition; Behavioural Theory of the Firm; Radical Innovation
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Business > Management and Marketing, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:03 Aug 2021 12:57

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