Sub-theme 31: Generating and Recognizing New Ideas: The Problematic Journey of Novelty

Gino Cattani
New York University, USA
Dirk Deichmann
Erasmus University, The Netherlands
Simone Ferriani
University of Bologna, Italy, & City, University of London, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

By definition, novelty does not fit well-established categories. In the business world, life outside the mainstream is harsh, and social objects (e.g., ideas, products, technologies or organizational forms) that lie off the beaten path, tend to be overlooked. Acquiring the legitimacy that comes with being part of an established category helps actors survive but recognition depends on an actor not being ignored (Zuckerman, 1999). Although there is a growing consensus that the process of novelty recognition is key to understanding the journey of novelty from the moment it arises to the time it takes hold (e.g., Cattani et al., 2017; Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2017; Sgourev, 2013), extant research has yet to expound on a crucial and common problem that tends to undermine the recognition of novelty: entering into the attention space of the evaluating audience(s).
As Csikszentmihalyi (1996: 345) pointed out, “the most fundamental difference between people consists in how much uncommitted attention they have left over to deal with novelty. In too many cases, attention is restricted by external necessity”. The novelty-attention problem, therefore, captures a puzzling tension: the type of novelty that demands more attention to be recognized also deflects audiences’ attention away. This problem may by compounded by several factors. Besides simply being overwhelmed by the number of ideas they must sort through (Piezunka & Dahlander, 2015), novelty evaluators may not have the attention bandwidth and skills to recognize the value of an idea (Berg, 2016). In addition, people may have implicit biases against new ideas (Mueller et al., 2012). Research has also shown a tendency among managers to favor ideas from people they know or who somehow resemble them (Aadland et al., 2018; Reitzig & Sorenson, 2013). Such in-group biases often persist even after correcting for the quality of an idea. Whether or not novel ideas are recognized might also depend on how connected they are to other ideas. One the one hand, highly connected ideas might be perceived as novel because they blend existing knowledge in new ways but, on the other hand, they might also be perceived as familiar because people can relate more easily to such connected ideas (Deichmann et al., 2020).
Because any novel social object must attract and win social audience’s attention in order to advance in its legitimation journey, we need scholarly inquiry to deepen our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that govern how and why novelty gets recognition. To this end, we encourage researchers from a diverse array of academic disciplines – including organizational sociology, organizational behavior, strategy and psychology – to submit papers that address this fundamental question. We are open to different types of theoretically grounded empirical work based on qualitative and/or quantitative methods. We especially welcome work that aims to challenge received wisdom in the organizational literature, and recommend submitting papers that are already in advanced state of development. We will place special emphasis on innovative doctoral research that shows potential for contributing to the field in a non-conventional way. We also look forward to manuscripts whose theoretical perspectives and empirical findings allow comparing practices across different empirical settings.
To this end, we would like to solicit conceptual and empirical papers addressing the following or very similar questions:

  • What are the characteristics of novel ideas?

  • Under what conditions does novelty take root and propagate?

  • When does novelty win the attention of relevant audiences and then progress in its journey towards recognition?

  • How does novelty enter the attention space of individuals?

  • How do organizations allocate attention to novel ideas?

  • How do creators of novel ideas overcome resistance against their ideas?

  • What are the factors that influence the accuracy of idea evaluations?

  • How can idea evaluators overcome some of the challenges that are associated with the recognition and evaluation of novel ideas?

  • What audience level features may render the field more or less permeable to the reception of novelty?

  • What is the role of exogenous shocks in opening entry points for the introduction of novelty?

  • How does the production of earlier novel work stimulate or inhibit the generation of subsequent ideas?

We will publish a special issue in Innovation: Organization and Management on the topic of our sub-theme. We invite our sub-theme participants to submit to this special issue, and will use the opportunity to discuss potential contributions during our sub-theme.


  • Aadland, E., Cattani, G., & Ferriani, S. (2018): “The social structure of consecration in cultural fields: The influence of status and social distance in audience-candidate evaluative processes.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 55, 129–157.
  • Berg, J.M. (2016): “Balancing on the creative highwire: Forecasting the success of novel ideas in organizations.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 61 (3), 433–468.
  • Cattani, G., Ferriani, S., & Lanza, A. (2017): “Deconstructing the outsider puzzle: The legitimation journey of novelty.” Organization Science, 28 (6), 965–999.
  • Csíkszentmihályi, M. (1996): Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Deichmann, D., Moser, C., Birkholz, J.M., Nerghes, A., Groewegen, P., & Wang, S. (2020): “Ideas with impact: How connectivity shapes idea diffusion.” Research Policy, 49 (1), 1–11.
  • Mueller, J.S., Melwani, S., & Goncalo, J.A. (2012): The bias against creativity: Why people desire but reject creative ideas.” Psychological Science, 23 (1), 13–17.
  • Perry-Smith, J., & Mannucci, P.V. (2017): “From creativity to innovation: The social network drivers of the four phases of the idea journey.” Academy of Management Review, 42 (1), 53–79.
  • Piezunka, H., & Dahlander, L. (2015): “Distant search, narrow attention: How crowding alters organizations’ filtering of suggestions in crowdsourcing.” Academy of Management Journal, 58 (3), 856–880.
  • Reitzig, M., & Sorenson, O. (2013): “Biases in the selection stage of bottom-up strategy formulation.” Strategic Management Journal, 34 (7), 782–799.
  • Sgourev, S.V. (2013): “How Paris gave rise to cubism (and Picasso): Ambiguity and fragmentation in radical innovation.” Organization Science, 24 (6), 1601–1617.
  • Zuckerman, E.W. (1999): “The categorical imperative: Securities analysts and the illegitimacy discount.” American Journal of Sociology, 104 (5), 1398–1438.
Gino Cattani is an Associate Professor of Management & Organization at the Stern School of Business, New York University, USA. His research focuses on creativity, innovation, and market/industry formation and evolution. In his current research he has investigated the socio-structural foundations of individual creativity by looking at the role of audiences recognizing and endorsing creative work and individuals’ position along the core/periphery continuum of the field’ social network. Gino’s work was published in several top academic journals such as ‘Organization Science’, ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Research Policy’, and ‘Industrial and Corporate Change’.
Dirk Deichmann is an Associate Professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. In his research he focuses on the determinants and consequences of creative and innovative behavior, with particular emphasis on the question of how sustained and successful idea generation, development, and implementation can be achieved. Dirk’s work has been published in several top academic journals such as ‘Strategic Management Journal’ and ‘Organization Science’ and has also been featured in popular media outlets such as ‘Harvard Business Review’.
Simone Ferriani is Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Bologna, Italy, and Honorary Professor at Cass Business School, United Kingdom. His research interests include entrepreneurship, creativity, and social networks. He has published his work in journal articles, books and book chapters. Recent publications have focused on processes of social evaluation, the origin of entrepreneurship and the social side of creativity. Simone’s research has been featured in such journals as ‘Strategic Management Journal’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, and ‘American Sociological Review’.