Tolerating and Inducing Temporal Asynchronicity in Complex Innovation Journeys

Birke Otto, Elke Schuessler, Jörg Sydow, Lukas Vogelgsang

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


While research has often alluded to the temporal complexity of innovation processes, we still understand little about the temporal work practices through which actors address the tension between predictability and creativity, which are both inherent in most complex, resource-intensive innovation contexts. Based on a multi-temporal qualitative research approach of studying pharmaceutical drug development, we focus on the role of entrainment in relation to this tension. We find that entrainment does not just imply the reactive synchronization of work processes with dominant temporal structures, but can also be achieved by actively influencing these Zeitgeber. Moreover, while the chief concern of entrainment research to date has been the synchronization with dominant Zeitgeber, we find that temporal work also involves practices of detrainment, defined as either inducing a deliberate temporal uncoupling of practices from procedures and pacers, or the temporary toleration of moments of asynchrony. Adding to the conception of a ‘dance of entrainment’ and the literature on temporal work more broadly, we develop the notion of Zeitgebung as a reflexive process to mediate the tension between creativity and predictability, both common to complex innovation processes. We also contribute to further connecting creativity and innovation research from a process perspective by highlighting the temporal work needed to keep an idea going and prevent its premature closure in the context of highly standardized innovation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021: Bringing the Manager Back in Management - Online, Virtual, Online
Duration: 29 Jul 20214 Aug 2021
Conference number: 81


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021
CityVirtual, Online
Internet address


  • Temporal work
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Pharmaceutical R&D
  • Empirical
  • Qualitative

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