A Critique of ‘Organising for radical innovation – A multi-level behavioural approach’

What drives the management of Radical innovation projects has become a fascination of mine for some time. In my opinion, Buschgens, T. et al( 2013), in ‘A Critique of ‘Organizing for radical innovation — A multi-level behavioral approach’, present a very strong case for the speedy adoption of the multi-level behavioral theory approach by small, medium and large enterprises.

Man Taking Photo of Brown Decorative Speaker
I experiment with new ideas, and old ones (Pexels.2020)

When an individual is nurtured to perform at his optimal state, this leads to maximum idea-generation. Which in turn, translates into more productivity within the firm, as well as greater profits for shareholders. The fact that up until now, businesses have been more concerned with the output of the group or business as a whole, rather than the productivity of the individual, merits some concern. The theme of this paper is to, “develop a concept of how management can motivate individuals to generate novel ideas and organize groups to support creativity, and provide the dynamics that are needed to implement radical innovation,” Buschgens, T. et al( 2013).

I agree in principal with the authors, there is a need for companies to realize that incremental innovation of existing products is not the same as managing radical innovation products, markets or services that could potentially affect tens of millions of consumers.Consequently, the authors propose a synthesis of the well-established, ‘Self- Determination, Group-Effectiveness and Cognitive behaviorial theories to create a hybrid understanding of the processes that take place within an organisation, with special emphasis on the motivation of the individual to produce highly creative work for their employers.


The methodology used by the authors is an evaluation of an exhaustive list of academic papers from a wide range of scholars. The authors extract from them, of what in their view, are those components that would be useful for the strengthening of managerial practices of firms who are already developing radical innovation product and processes , or who may be considering to enter this challenging sector.

Although the paper does not mention what are the qualifications of the authors are, one can assume that they are of a doctoral level, or above. Consequently, I am of the opinion that they are experts in this field and are well qualified to make such assumptions and give recommendations as is done in this paper.
To get their message across to the reader, the authors use a series of ten(10) numbered propositions to recap their discussions and findings. They also use of visual aides such as ‘Organisation level’ research model (fig 1) and the description of the behavioral modes, and influencing factors for doctrinal and imagistic in tables 1 and 2 breaks up the otherwise flow of print, that can make reading and comprehension of the subject matter difficult to grasp quickly.

Validation and limitations

What is not clear though, is to which geo-political area are their findings restricted to? Are they generalising or speaking to companies that exist in the developed world, such and the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Or to emerging economies such as India and Africa. On the question of reward systems, pay-scales and remuneration of salaried workers would change from region to region in my opinion. Another aspect that is not clear to me, is whether intrinsic motivation of the individual is recommended at the national, regional, sectoral and technological innovation system levels. I would like to think that it is.

Free stock photo of afro, afro hair, animal, appartment
Improved mental well being and enhanced capabilities (Pexeles 2020)

When an individual is nurtured

to perform at his optimal state,

this leads to maximum idea-generation.

Further research

While I am in agreement with the paper as a whole, the authors have failed to impress me with their closing statements on the paper. They did not state that there needs to be further work/research carried out in this area. In my opinion, in order to ‘sell’ the idea of autonomous motivation and multi-level behavioral theory approach to managers, it needs to be presented in a less complex manner. The language of the paper is verbose, and does not conclude with a declaration of a new theory. I would suggest naming the theory, ‘Radical Innovation behaviorial theory’, which should be written along the style of the propositions, in plain English There is also no evidence that any first hand data-gathering was carried out by the authors. The team point to a secondary source, and use phrases like, ‘extant literature’ and ‘literature reviews’. I would expect that in an updated paper, that some effort be made to conduct their own surveys. It would be interesting to capture the thoughts of those involved in radical innovation projects early in the product cycle and after it is finally released to the general public,for instance. To interview managers and information workers at every stage of the radical innovation process. The concluding section, 4. therefore in my opinion is weak and leaves a lot to be desired for the work to be truly holistic. It does not give the impression that there is need for further research, or need for an investigation in to their claims for the theory. Additionally, the authors failed to invite other scholars to enter the debate. I also think that the paper could be improved by identifying specific examples of radical innovation covered by this survey.

Closing remarks

Finally, this paper has brought to my attention some interesting thoughts on organisational culture. Moreover, it has given me, a great insight into the attributes of individuals and the sharing of the value systems that underpin the interactions in the work place and how these interaction can be tweaked to bring out the best in the individual. I realise that this may not be the
definitive work on multi-level behavioral theory, and that I do have to engage in further research on the topic myself. This paper masterfully, brings together the strands of understanding necessary to build a solid foundation for further study, refinement and reflection.
(1000 words)


Büschgens, T., Bausch, A. and Balkin, D.B. (2013) ‘Organizing for radical innovation — A multi-level behavioral approach’, The Journal of High Technology Management Research, Vol 24, Issue 2 , pp. 138–152. [Online] Available at,
http://www.sciencedirect.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S1047831013000205?np=y (Accessed on November 22, 2016)

Images.pexels.com. (2020). [online] Available at: https://images.pexels.com/photos/1670045/pexels-photo-1670045.jpeg?auto=compress&cs=tinysrgb&dpr=1&w=500 [Accessed 18 May 2020].