How Resistant are Large Firms to Change?
Wenjing Lyu and Didier Bonnet
Models of innovation typically assert that incumbent firms resist radical innovations either out of inertia or because of employees’ commitments to current value networks and technological paradigms. In this work, we analyze 600 innovation projects from a representative survey of 300 large companies from 8 countries. Consistent with previous findings, we see that the more radical a proposed innovation project is, the more it is resisted. But, when we examine shocks to radicalness that happen during project implementation (i.e., an innovation proves more transformative than expected), we find that employees embrace the “radicalness shock”, making implementation easier and adoption better. We propose that this contrasting result can be explained by two forces: a “resistance” force necessary to get employees to work on projects more likely to fail, and a “embracing” force where employees are attracted to projects likely to provide bigger benefits.