Innovation 2.0: Conceptualizing the role of social media in distributed innovation

Thor Otar Nielsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis positions itself between two highly germane and interesting fields of research and practice: social media, which impact is overwhelming and irrefutable, both in society at large and lately also in the world of business, and distributed innovation, once a radical form of innovation, now seems to assonate long term competitiveness in any modern firm. Through new theoretic constructs this dissertation endeavors to discuss the role of social media in firms’ distributed innovation strategy and attempts to conceptualize this relatively uncharted phenomena referred to as innovation 2.0. The concept of distributed innovation is applied as an umbrella term covering firms’ utilization of external entities in their innovation strategy e.g. through user innovation, co-creation, open innovation etc. Social media is appreciated as an outcrop of web 2.0, and while there are many perceptions of social media, it is fortified here as an ideology rather than a technology. The social media ideology is entrenched by the concept of interaction and it is maintained that the characteristics of these phenomena warrant new theoretical tenets when interlinked with knowledge and innovation. Based on a social constructionist perspective which relocates the locus of innovation and knowledge to the interpersonal realm of social interaction, this dissertation construe a theoretical framework that challenges dominant discourses in distributed innovation research. Primary data researched here include a case study of the software house tradable; a pioneering firm aiming to disrupt the online trading industry through an integrated distributed innovation and social media strategy. Data also include expert interviews with strategists, authors, and social technology firms, as well as an in-depth study of researcher and practitioner communities within distributed innovation and social media on LinkedIn. Findings yielded from research show that there is a call for more integrated views of distributed innovation, and that this body of research and practice is at the moment faced with conceptual conflation. Through a new theoretic approach this thesis relocates the locus of innovation to interaction and endeavors to contextualize innovation 2.0. Ultimately it becomes clear that there is no definite role of social media in firms’ distributed innovation strategy, but that parity between the two concepts does exist, and that firms can exploit that parity in various ways. Firms are already leveraging their distributed innovation through social media, and this thesis yields contributions to the new ‘social’ imperative of distributed innovation. In final synthesis an attempt to a conceptual framework on the role of social media in distributed innovation is presented. This development remains a canvas from where theory and practice can be advanced; a leeway for new and exciting vistas of distributed innovation and social media, as we aim to unearth the full potential of innovation 2.0

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages116