2016/09/01

«Experience innovation tracks»



Jon Sundbo. «Innovation in the experience economy: a taxonomy of innovation organisations», The Service Industries Journal, vol. 29, n.º 4, April 2009. See the references in the original publication of the article.




«Experience innovation tracks

»From this taxonomy we can extract some principal tracks of innovation. A track consists of a specific source of an innovation and the way in which the innovation is developed. For example, a technical laboratory track is characterised by the idea or prototype of the innovation being invented in a laboratory as is the case with people sitting in front of their computers designing a new type of computer game. This is the source of the innovation. The innovation is then developed further so that it can be used; however, the development process is determined by the source. A development process of an experience invented in a technical laboratory may be assumed to be different from a development process based on, for example, intrapreneurship (cf. Pinchot, 1985). The first development process may be assumed to be more rational and linear than the latter, which may involve processes of convincing other people about the idea, decisions and complex backlashes in the development process. The idea of innovation tracks is similar to the idea of technology trajectories that Dosi (1982) introduced, and the idea of vectors in service innovations that Gallouj (2002b) introduced. However, the concept of innovation track is different from these two concepts. It does not imply an overall paradigm (logic of thinking) that characterises the concept of trajectory and it does not emphasise the many identifiable elements (such as the client’s and the service provider’s competencies) that characterise the vector concept. In the first case, this is because an overall paradigm is not likely to be presumed in experiences, in the latter, because the factors dealt with in experiences are not so unilinear as the service vectors. An experience innovation track is more complex than a vector such as competencies or technical characteristics. A vector is a characteristic, while a track is a process. A track is identified by its source, that is which actors or technological possibilities start the innovation process (cf. the ANT tradition, Pels et al. (2002), Latour (2005)).

»The advantage of using the concept of innovation track is that we can extract a more abstract system of understanding than with a taxonomy, which is influenced by the concrete historical and geographical circumstances. For example, the taxonomy in this article is based on Danish firms in the 1990s and 2000s. The innovation tracks are the explanatory factors that provide the basis for the taxonomy and which, taken together, provide a more general explanatory system.

»From the taxonomy presented here, six innovation tracks can be identified based on their sources, which may be technical possibilities, or social or artistic processes. Thus, by focusing on the experience economy, this analysis adds the concept of “artistic processes” and thus introduces the humanities as a relevant field. This is in addition to the social and technical factors that have mainly been discussed within the ANT tradition.

»The six experience innovation tracks that may be suggested are the following:

»(1) Technical laboratory track: The source is a technical possibility that has been discovered in a laboratory or by technical experiments. For example, computer games invented from the possibilities that PCs and new graphical software provide.

»(2) Artistic laboratory track: The source is an artist that creates a new work or genre. For example, the Beatles creating a new form of music.

»(3) Intrapreneurship track: The source is an employee getting a new idea. For example, an attendant in a museum gets an idea about informing the visitors in a new way.

»(4) Entrepreneurship track: The source is an entrepreneur establishing a new firm. For example, a woman establishing a dinner dating firm.

»(5) Public network track: The source is a crowd or a public network that collectively develops a new idea. For example, new activities in a town festival are developed in a network of voluntary associations.

»(6) Story telling track: The source is a story invented in a firm (typically in the marketing department). The innovation is ‘talked up’. For example, a story of an aquavit that has passed the equator on a particular ship.


»One may also suggest that there are some factors – vector factors (cf. Gallouj, 2002b) – behind the innovation tracks. These factors are generic characteristics that are mixed in the above innovation tracks. They might be called determinants, however, they do not automatically determine innovations and knowledge of them cannot lead to a prediction, but they can explain the innovation processes in experiences. Some innovation tracks are mainly determined by one factor, others by a mixture. The factors are technological, psychological, sociological and artistic. The following factors can be suggested: ¬

»_ Technology (technological possibilities)

»_ Artistic creativity (individual creativity)

»_ Collective creativity (problem-solving)

»_ Entrepreneurship (the will to act and to persist)

»_ Competence (management, project, employee, user competencies)

»_ User understanding (understanding of the users, future market penetration systems)




»Innovation systems and experience innovation

»It has been argued that future economic growth and welfare will, to a large degree, be based on the experience economy (Pine & Gilmore, 1999). This implies that the society needs some instruments to increase innovation and growth of the experience economy.

»One of those which has been emphasized in innovation research is innovation systems (Nelson, 1993). Along the lines of Porter’s (1990) identification of development clusters, researchers have identified actor networks that influence the innovation activities of the single firms in the network. Often the lines of influence and successive development of innovations are based on R&D and technology; specific technological trajectories have been identified (cf. Dosi, 1982). Innovation systems have been found in manufacturing (e.g. Nelson, 1993). The interest for identifying innovation systems is political. The concept of innovation system presents an instrument that researchers could identify and politicians could operate to increase innovation and accordingly economic growth. If the experience economy is the new growth area, it will be an advantage if innovation systems within the experience economy can be identified. However, we may ask whether such innovation systems exist? Is the concept innovation system and the theoretical ideas behind it appropriate when we talk about the experience economy?

»The concept of innovation system – although objectively argued and empirically based – is a social construction (cf. the sociological discussion of constructivism, Bijker et al. (1987)). The concept is developed by economist researchers as a theoretical understanding. A cluster or innovation system can be an object with rather fluid borders. Thus the phenomenon of the innovation system is a mixture of something objectively existing in reality and a theoretical construction. The criterion for its usefulness is not its objective existence, but its appropriateness – primarily to create industrial and research policy. Thus, the question here can be reformulated as: Is the innovation system (or cluster) approach an appropriate means to promote development of innovations, and thus growth, in the experience economy?

»When innovation research started investigating services, innovation systems were already more difficult to identify, and if they can be identified, they are more loosely coupled (Sundbo & Gallouj, 2000). Services are not as technology intensive as manufacturing; service products are often pure human behaviour (moving persons or things, or solving problems as lawyers do). Service innovations are very rarely based on R&D (van der Aa & Elfring, 2002; Sundbo, 1998). Thus, the innovation system approach is of limited appropriateness to develop service sectors.

»The situation within the experience economy according to the case studies used here is varied and changing. It has, for example, been demonstrated that within traditional tourism (hotels, restaurants, attractions and so forth) there are only weak, or no, innovation systems (Sundbo et al., 2007). However, we can also observe a tendency to more collective, cluster-wise, formation of tourism development based on strong regional semi-public promotion organisations (Mattsson et al., 2005).

»We found in some cases within the classic cultural field, for example a theatre, that there is an innovation system. It is not the same as in manufacturing where each actor contributes to a common R&D programme. In culture there is no R&D in the formal sense of the notion (however many artistic experiments may be compared with an R&D activity). The innovation system is composed of the human actors – the actors, directors, lighting people and so forth – who are only temporarily engaged for the single play after which they move to another theatre, film or TV production. In that way they diffuse new ideas. In Denmark there has been one attempt to develop a regional innovation system based on the idea of a cultural cluster or innovation system (primarily based on music) (Sundbo, 2004). This attempt has not yet led to any particular development.

»A third situation can be found within the ICT-based experiences such as multimedia products, computer games and amusement services for mobile phones. These experiences are very much based on technology, R&D and technology laboratories (e.g. multimedia laboratories) exist. Innovation systems similar to those observed in manufacturing can be identified; however, this field is new and has received little academic attention from an innovation system point of view. Thus, we cannot yet tell whether innovation systems play the same role within ICT-based experiences as within manufacturing. The case studies within this field nevertheless suggest that technology involves a more laboratory and R&D-based innovation system. Thus, technology has an independent role, which again underlines the appropriateness of an ANT approach as argued earlier. Some cases also suggest an emerging innovation system. For example, a firm that constructs computer games has been acquired by a global computer game marketing company and the new games are tested by Sony, who worldwide delivers the consoles used for playing the game. This demonstrates a tendency to produce some sort of innovation system.

»In conclusion, the existence and appropriateness of innovation systems within the experience economy is at present varied. There is a tendency to form innovation systems, which may be increasing in strength in the future since politicians will probably emphasize the experience economy even more. This theme, however, needs more research.»





Innovation Typologies
Thematic Readings

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