What is the Optimum Amount of Original Slack? A Study of the Relationship between Slack and Innovation in Multinational Firms

HBS Working Paper No. 95-023

Posted: 25 Sep 1999

See all articles by Nitin Nohria

Nitin Nohria

Harvard Business School

Ranjay Gulati

Harvard Business School - Organizational Behavior

Abstract

The effect of slack on innovation has been mired in controversy. On one side are those who argue that slack encourages innovation by providing a pool of resources that can be used to support risky innovative projects. On the other side are those who argue that slack breeds complacency and a lack of discipline that leads to the pursuit of pet projects that rarely translate to useful innovations. In this paper we try to resolve this controversy by suggesting that slack is not always good nor always bad for innovation. Indeed, too much or too little slack may both be detrimental for innovation. We hypothesize that there is a inverse-U shaped relationship between slack. We provide empirical evidence to support this hypothesis by examining the relationship between slack and innovation across several departments (equivalent to functional sub-units) in two multinational corporations.

JEL Classification: G00

Suggested Citation

Nohria, Nitin and Gulati, Ranjay, What is the Optimum Amount of Original Slack? A Study of the Relationship between Slack and Innovation in Multinational Firms. HBS Working Paper No. 95-023. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=6146

Nitin Nohria (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6653 (Phone)
617-496-7387 (Fax)

Ranjay Gulati

Harvard Business School - Organizational Behavior ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 317
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-8554 (Phone)
617-496-6568 (Fax)

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