Gino Cattani

The origins and recognition of radical innovation: A multidisciplinary perspective

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The purpose of this paper is to review how current models of technological change theorize on the origins of radical innovation. Two models of technological change have received considerable attention in the innovation and technology literature: the punctuated equilibrium model of technological change and the model of technological speciation. Identifying the determinants of a radical innovation, however, requires a finer grained investigation of the micro-processes and evolutionary forces responsible for its emergence. Exaptation has been recognized as an increasingly important evolutionary mechanism to describe a discontinuous evolutionary process resulting from a functional shift of an existing artifact (technology). One of the evolutionary forces that might trigger radical innovation via exaptation is the horizontal transfer of existing artifacts across different application domains. We then complement these models with research in sociology and organization theory that adopts an audience-based view to study the process by which radical innovations become recognized in a given domain. The integration between the two research traditions affords a window into a more nuanced understanding of the mechanisms underlying the process through which radical innovations emerge, as well as the specific actions firms can take to act upon those mechanisms.


  • 031 - Innovation
  • 032 - Research and Development
  • 033 - Technological Change
  • B15 - Evolutionary Models


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