Sub-theme 36: Framing Innovation with Words: A Linguistic Approach

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

Call for Papers

Innovators’ struggle for recognition is a central theme in the literature on creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation. One way by which innovators can overcome the liability of newness of their ideas is through the use of rhetorical devices (e.g., Aldrich & Fiol, 1994; Czarniawska, 1998). A growing body of scholarship now adopts a framing approach (Goffman, 1974) to study creativity and innovation, where framing refers to “the use of rhetorical devices in communication to mobilize support and minimize resistance to a change” (Cornelissen & Werner, 2014: 185). Several studies in entrepreneurship, for instance, underscore the importance of framing choices in contextualizing innovation efforts (Garud et al., 2014) to shape the perceived risk of novel entrepreneurial ideas or to motivate capital commitment by relevant stakeholders (Martens et al., 2007). Likewise, organizational scholars have suggested that the frames individuals use as well as the terms and categories they borrow from a dominant discourse are critical to gain access to audiences’ symbolic and/or material resources (Lounsbury & Glynn, 2001; Zott & Huy, 2007; Navis & Glynn, 2011).
The goal of this sub-theme is to advance our understanding of novelty emergence and recognition by linking insights into the enabling role of language in framing novelty-claims with recent findings on audience-based evaluative mechanisms. One important pillar to this link lies in language expectancy theory, which holds that individuals develop normative expectations concerning appropriate communication styles in given situations, and which argues that such expectations affect individuals’ attitude towards message effectiveness (e.g., Burgoon et al., 2002). When those expectations are matched, the persuasiveness of the message increases. Expected patterns of language use have been shown by cognitive studies to exist and operate along multiple communication features including language intensity, complexity, and emotional tone (Averbeck & Miller, 2014; Craig & Blankenship, 2011). Along these lines, past research has linked the frequency with which we use certain word categories with how we are perceived by others. More recently, entrepreneurship scholarship has shown audiences to be sensitive to the linguistic styles adopted by entrepreneurs to describe their ideas on crowdfunding platforms (Parhankangas & Renko, 2017) and digital marketplaces (Cutolo et al., 2020), while related strategy scholarship has demonstrated that subtle changes in the linguistic framing of idea pitches may decisively affect key audiences’ disposition to support those ideas (Huang et al., 2021; Falchetti et al., 2021).
In sum, although it “took some time before the linguistic turn in the social sciences found its way into organization studies” (Van Werven et al., 2015: 629), new findings as well as methodological developments have opened up exciting new opportunities for scholars interested in the nexus between language and innovation. It would be interesting, for instance, to investigate the extent to which the narrative supporting a particular novelty claim can be strategically modified to resonate with specific audiences (Giorgi, 2017). Do the framing choices that enhance audiences’ receptiveness to incremental ideas work for radical ideas? Another interesting line of inquiry is the interactive effects of both the content and the source of novelty claims. Indeed, in certain situations, particularly face-to-face interactions, specific characteristics of the storytellers (e.g., their appearance or social skills) may be just as influential as the stories they tell to couch their innovations. Scholars interested in the framing of innovation could also explore how entrepreneurial narratives vary not only across audiences but also intertemporally. For instance, it is plausible to expect that no single framing strategy will be equally effective across all stages of a new venture (Pan et al., 2020). Research looking at the effectiveness of framing strategies of venturing ideas over time could then further explore how entrepreneurial narratives must be adapted as a new venture moves across different growth stages.
With the growing availability of computational tools to unravel latent cognitive, semantic, and emotional meanings of large collections of texts (Hannigan et al., 2019), as well as vast textual databases online (e.g., Berger et al., 2020), research opportunities become even more intriguing. Novelty detection is one example. Increasingly, scholars use descriptions of ideas to examine how novel they are. For example, Kaplan and Vakili (2015) used a text-based, topic modeling approach to investigate the novelty of patents. Another example is the study by Deichmann and colleagues (2020) who applied a semantic network perspective to assess the connectivity of an idea relative to the other ideas. Continuing to engage with this growing methodological space is crucial to making progress in the development of reliable and rigorous analytical toolkits for the study of cultural domains (DiMaggio et al., 2013).
Despite some progress in uncovering the importance of language during an innovation process, we need more scholarly inquiry to deepen our understanding of how to decode it and to understand when it hinders or helps people and organizations in generating, recognizing, and legitimating novel ideas. To address these shortcomings, we encourage researchers from a diverse array of academic disciplines – including linguistics, communication, organizational sociology, organizational behavior, strategy, and psychology – to submit papers that address this fundamental question. We are open to different types of conceptual and empirical work based on qualitative and/or quantitative methods. We especially welcome work that aims to challenge received wisdom in the creativity and innovation literature and recommend submitting papers that are already in an advanced stage of development. We will place special emphasis on innovative doctoral research that shows potential for contributing to the field in a non-conventional way.
Potential research questions include:

  • How do successful innovators frame ideas to maximize their impact?

  • What critical language features should one focus on when analyzing the idea journey?

  • In what way do framing strategies change throughout the life of an idea?

  • How can linguistics be mobilized to effectively persuade an audience of a novel idea?

  • How can novelty reliably be detected in the descriptions of an idea?

  • What framing strategies are more appropriate for incremental and radical ideas?

  • Is abstract or concrete communication more effective in conveying an idea’s potential to a particular audience?

  • How can we make use of computational linguistics tools to understand the emergence and recognition of novelty?

  • How can innovators use language to increase the appeal of their ideas across multiple audiences?

NB. This sub-theme follows up from our previous EGOS sub-themes “The Emergence, Evaluation, and Legitimation of Novelty and Novel Ideas” (virtual EGOS Colloquium 2020), “Generating and Recognizing New Ideas: The Problematic Journey of Novelty” (virtual EGOS Colloquium 2021), and “Creative Trajectories in Cultural Fields” (EGOS Colloquium 2022 in Vienna).


  • Aldrich, H.E., & Fiol, C.M. (1994): “Fools rush in? The institutional context of industry creation.” Academy of Management Review, 19 (4), 645–670.
  • Averbeck, J.M., & Miller, C. (2014): “Expanding language expectancy theory: The suasory effects of lexical complexity and syntactic complexity on effective message design.” Communication Studies, 65 (1), 72–95.
  • Berger, J., Humphreys, A., Ludwig, S., Moe, W.W., Netzer, O., & Schweidel, D.A. (2020): “Uniting the tribes: Using text for marketing insight.” Journal of Marketing, 84 (1), 1–25.
  • Burgoon, M., Denning, V., & Roberts, L. (2002): “Language expectancy theory.” In: J.P. Dillard & M. Pfau (eds.): The Persuasion Handbook: Developments in Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications, 117–136.
  • Cornelissen, J.P., & Werner, M.D. (2014): “Putting framing in perspective: A review of framing and frame analysis across the management and organizational literature.” Academy of Management Annals, 8 (1), 181–235.
  • Craig, T.Y., & Blankenship, K.L. (2011): “Language and persuasion: Linguistic extremity influences message processing and behavioral intentions.” Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 30 (3), 290–310.
  • Cutolo, D., Ferriani, S., & Cattani, G. (2020): “Tell me your story and I will tell your sales: A topic model analysis of narrative style and firm performance on Etsy.” Advances in Strategic Management, 42, 119–138.
  • Czarniawska, B. (1998): A Narrative Approach in Organization Studies. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Deichmann, D., Moser, C., Birkholz, J.M., Nerghes, A., Groenewegen, P., & Wang, S. (2020): “Ideas with impact: How connectivity shapes idea diffusion.” Research Policy, 49 (1), Article 103881,
  • DiMaggio, P., Nag, M., & Blei, D. (2013): “Exploiting affinities between topic modeling and the sociological perspective on culture: Application to newspaper coverage of U.S. government arts funding.” Poetics, 41 (6), 570–606.
  • Falchetti, D., Cattani, G., & Ferriani, S. (2022): “Start with ‘why,’ but only if you have to: The strategic framing of novel ideas across different audiences.” Strategic Management Journal, 43 (1), 130–159.
  • Garud, R., Gehman, J., & Giuliani, A.P. (2014): “Contextualizing entrepreneurial innovation: A narrative perspective.” Research Policy, 43 (7), 1177–1188.
  • Giorgi, S. (2017): “The mind and heart of resonance: The role of cognition and emotions in frame effectiveness.” Journal of Management Studies, 54 (5), 711–738.
  • Goffman, E. (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
  • Hannigan, T.R., Haans, R.F.J., Vakili, K., Tchalian, H., Glaser, V.L., Wang, M.S., Kaplan, S., & Jannings, P.D. (2019): “Topic modelling in management research: Rendering new theory from textual data.” Academy of Management Annals, 13 (2), 586–632.
  • Huang, L., Joshi, P.D., Wakslak, C.J., & Wu, A. (2021): “Sizing up entrepreneurial potential: Gender differences in communication and investor perceptions of long-term growth and scalability.Academy of Management Journal, 64 (3), 716–740.
  • Kaplan, K., & Vakili, K. (2015): “The double‐edged sword of recombination in breakthrough innovation.” Strategic Management Journal, 36 (10), 1435–1457.
  • Lounsbury, M., & Glynn, M.A. (2001): “Cultural entrepreneurship: Stories, legitimacy, and the acquisition of resources.” Strategic Management Journal, 22 (6‐7), 545–564.
  • Martens, M.L., Jennings, J.E., & Jennings, P.D. (2007): “Do the stories they tell get them the money they need? The role of entrepreneurial narratives in resource acquisition.” Academy of Management Journal, 50 (5), 1107–1132.
  • Navis, C., & Glynn, M.A. (2011): “Legitimate distinctiveness and the entrepreneurial identity: Influence on investor judgments of new venture plausibility.” Academy of Management Review, 36 (3), 479–499.
  • Pan, L., Li, X., Chen, J., & Chen, T. (2020): “Sounds novel or familiar? Entrepreneurs’ framing strategy in the venture capital market.” Journal of Business Venturing, 35 (2),
  • Parhankangas, A., & Renko, M. (2017): “Linguistic style and crowdfunding success among social and commercial entrepreneurs.” Journal of Business Venturing, 32 (2), 215–236.
  • Van Werven, R., Bouwmeester, O., & Cornelissen, J.P. (2015): “The power of arguments: How entrepreneurs convince stakeholders of the legitimate distinctiveness of their ventures.” Journal of Business Venturing, 30 (4), 616–631.
  • Zott, C., & Huy, Q.N. (2007): “How entrepreneurs use symbolic management to acquire resources.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 52 (1), 70–105.
Gino Cattani is 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 ‘American Sociological Review,’ ‘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 ‘Journal of Applied Psychology,’ ‘Strategic Management Journal,’ ‘Organization Science,’ and ‘Research Policy’ 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 City, University of London, UK. 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.’