The Generative Properties of Secrecy in Idea Development: A Case Study in Pharmaceutical Innovation

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This paper intends to illuminate the dynamic and generative role of (in)formal secrecies in pharmaceutical innovation. More particularly, this qualitative case study is interested in the question of how knowledge protection influences and affects the creative process of idea generation in innovation processes. Does the need to protect promising ideas hinder and impede knowledge exchange and innovative capacities or can secrecy mechanisms, in fact, be productive for creativity? The case study of the development of a biopharmaceutical drug based on in-depth interviews with the involved scientists shows that secrecy is not only effective in order to prevent the loss of a pre-defined, already existing valuable idea as the property of an organization or a group of individuals. Instead, we found secrecy generative in various overlapping and intersecting modes that affected the idea as well as its valuation. Thus, moving beyond functionalist approaches concerned with the effectiveness of a given secrecy mechanism to protect valuable information, this study highlights the social dynamics and effects of the relationship between creativity and secrecy in innovation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Seventy-ninth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsGuclu Atinc
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2019: Understanding the Inclusive Organization - Boston, United States
Duration: 9 Aug 201913 Aug 2019
Conference number: 79


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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