Sub-theme 28: Exploring the Drivers and Outcomes of Imperfections in Innovation

Barak S. Aharonson
Tel Aviv University, Israel
Mark Ebers
University of Cologne, Germany
Suleika Bort
University of Passau,Germany

Call for Papers

This sub-theme aims to study the imperfections involved in the process of developing and launching innovations and the consequences that result. We invite papers that study (1) when and why which ruptures or imperfections occur in the innovation processes, (2) how actors deal with these ruptures and imperfections, and (3) how and why they trigger specific outcomes – both positive and negative. The beauty of such imperfections then lies in the fact that they do not necessarily lead to failure but may sometimes present opportunities for a more viable pathway to successful founding and innovation. We invite scholars from various disciplines, such as organization studies, economics, psychology, sociology, geography or political science. We welcome work from different theoretical and methodological perspectives.
The various benefits of innovation for individuals, organizations and societies have been widely emphasized (e.g., Aharonson et al., 2013). They are the base for sustainable and inclusive growth (George et al., 2012). Innovations ensure the competitiveness of organizations, regardless if they are start-ups, SMEs or large corporations (Gök & Peker 2017). However, while most research focuses on exploring the bright sides of innovation and the benefits these activities generate, it is important to consider that innovations rarely are successful in the first place. Innovations often do not commence from the beginning (i.e. first idea) to end (i.e. a viable firm or new product or service) without ruptures, discontinuities, interruptions and changes, be it in the business model, the technology, the product or service, team composition, funding, leadership, and more (Dance, 2019).
Set-backs and failures can happen in any phase of the innovation process: (1) ideation, (2) project selection, (3) product or service development, and (4) commercialization (Shepherd et al., 2009; D’Este et al., 2016). It has been evident that developing and commercializing an innovation is a challenging task that poses many difficulties and more often than not leads failure – either completely or partly (Heidenreich & Kraemer, 2016; Rhaiem & Amara, 2021). Yet, as Shepherd et al. (2009: 589) state, “within some failures lie the seeds of subsequent project success”. In fact, in entrepreneurship research, some scholars recommend not to produce business plans and follow them slavishly, as the effort will be misplaced and, as business plans will inevitably change. In addition, there are numerous accounts of how start-ups changed track very early on in their development and only then became successful (for example Amazon which failed with selling toys and then turned to establish the now known online retail company). And we all know the story of Post-Its, an extremely successful innovation that started out as a failure. In this vein, failures or disruptions can have positive consequences because they triggered important changes (Oliveira & Lumineau, 2019).
Some possible questions for papers in the subtheme include, but are not limited to:

  • When and why do which ruptures occur in innovation or entrepreneurial processes?

  • What are the dimensions and/or components of imperfections, ruptures, discontinuities, interruptions and changes prevalent in innovation and/or entrepreneurship?

  • How do we need to adjust our theories/thinking when acknowledging these ruptures?

  • How do actors deal with imperfections, ruptures, discontinuities, interruptions occurring in innovation or entrepreneurial processes?

  • How and why do these imperfections, ruptures, discontinuities and interruptions trigger particular process trajectories and lead to which particular outcomes?



  • Aharonson, B.S., Stettner, U., Amburgey, T.L., Ellis, S., & Drori, I. (2013): Understanding the Relationship Between Networks and Technology, Creativity and Innovation. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.
  • Dance, A. (2019): “How a failed scientific start-up can breed success.” Nature, 569 (7758), 741–743.
  • D’Este, P., Amara, N., & Olmos-Peñuela, J. (2016): “Fostering novelty while reducing failure: Balancing the twin challenges of product innovation.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 113, Part B, 280–292.
  • George, G., McGahan, A.M., & Prabhu, J. (2012): “Innovation for inclusive growth: Towards a theoretical framework and a research agenda.” Journal of Management Studies, 49 (4), 661–683.
  • Gök, O., & Peker, S. (2017): “Understanding the links among innovation performance, market performance and financial performance.” Review of Managerial Science, 11 (3), 605–631.
  • Heidenreich, S., & Kraemer, T. (2016): “Innovations – doomed to fail? Investigating strategies to overcome passive innovation resistance.” Journal of Product Innovation Management, 33 (3), 277–297.
  • Oliveira, N., & Lumineau, F. (2019): “The dark side of interorganizational relationships: An integrative review and research agenda.” Journal of Management, 45 (1), 231–261.
  • Rhaiem, K., & Amara, N. (2021): “Learning from innovation failures: A systematic review of the literature and research agenda.” Review of Managerial Science, 15, 189–234.
  • Shepherd, D.A., Covin, J.G., & Kuratko, D.F. (2009): “Project failure from corporate entrepreneurship: Managing the grief process.” Journal of Business Venturing, 24 (6), 588–600.
Barak S. Aharonson is member of the faculty of Management at Coller School of Business, Tel-Aviv University, Israel. His research focuses on entrepreneurial activity and innovation within geographic agglomerations; knowledge flows and innovative activity; and, entrepreneurial proclivity. Barak’s research has been published in a wide range of high-ranked journals like ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Research Policy’, and ‘Global Strategy Journal’.
Mark Ebers is Professor of Business Administration, Corporate Development and Organization at the University of Cologne, Germany. His research interests include networks and social capital, dynamic capabilities, innovation and learning as well as post-merger integration. Mark’s research has been published in ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Journal of Management’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Research in the Sociology of Organizations’, ‘Journal of Business Research’, and ‘Research Policy’, among others.
Suleika Bort is Professor of International Management and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Passau, Germany. Her research focuses on international networks and collaborations, institutions, sustainable entrepreneurship, and the emergence and diffusion of new markets and ideas. Suleika’s work has appeared in journals like ‘Journal of International Business Studies’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Organization Studies’.