Frame Flexibility: The Role of Cognitive and Emotional Framing in Innovation Adoption by Incumbent Firms
55 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2017 Last revised: 6 Sep 2018
Date Written: September 2018
Why do incumbent firms frequently reject non-incremental innovations? Beyond technical, structural, or economic factors, we propose an additional factor: the degree of the top management team’s (TMT) frame flexibility, i.e., their capability to perceptually expand an innovation’s categorical boundaries and to cast the innovation as emotionally-resonant with the organization’s identity, competencies, and competitive boundaries. We argue that forces of inertia generally constrict how TMTs perceive innovations, but that frame flexibility can overcome these constraints, increasing the likelihood of adoption and broadening the organization’s innovation practices. We advance a theoretical model that relaxes the assumption that cognitive frames are static, showing how they become flexible via categorical positioning, and introduce a role for emotional frames that appeal to organizational sentiments and aspirations in innovation adoption.
Keywords: innovation adoption, framing, cognition, emotional resonance, incumbent inertia
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