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

See all articles by Ryan L Raffaelli

Ryan L Raffaelli

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Mary Ann Glynn

Boston College - Carroll School of Management

Michael Tushman

Harvard University - Organizational Behavior Unit

Date Written: September 2018

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Raffaelli, Ryan L and Glynn, Mary Ann and Tushman, Michael, Frame Flexibility: The Role of Cognitive and Emotional Framing in Innovation Adoption by Incumbent Firms (September 2018). Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Working Paper No. 17-091, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2956442 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2956442

Ryan L Raffaelli (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Mary Ann Glynn

Boston College - Carroll School of Management ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

Michael Tushman

Harvard University - Organizational Behavior Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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