Controversies in open innovation: Opening up the ‘black hole’ of the urban cross-divisional competence project

Anders Jelstrup

Student thesis: Master thesis


Through a constructivist approach, this thesis serves to illuminate and describe the rise and fall of an open innovation project in order to describe what happens when an innovation attempt collapse, disappear of fail in living up to its purpose. Thus, this thesis focuses on the negotiations of organizational struggles that emerge as controversies to hinder innovation. Taking a point of departure in the Actor-Network Theory and by adopting the insights from ‘A Sociology of Translation’ as presented by Latour and Callon, the innovation project emerges in this thesis as a construction around which a network of actors is connected. The innovation project serves to construct a new organizational competence and to do this, the actor network needs to stabilize a particular meaning in the network by translating the identity, will and power of all relevant and needed actors. The actors must, thus, be displaced to become aligned with an obligatory passage point that serves the purpose of building the competence into the organization. However, the translations of actors are confronted by controversies that attempt to displace the obligatory passage points and thus the innovation attempts. In the analysis, four central episodes are identified that each represents a different construction of an obligatory passage point and the key actor to be aligned to it. In the first episode, the innovation project is centered on the construction of the Urban Group which is to secure innovation success. Controversies emerge that challenge the Urban Group’s network and as a second episode is observed as a result of the Urban Group’s negotiations of the controversies. Thus, the analysis identifies in total four episodes in which a central actor is translated and displaced towards an obligatory passage point. As a result, these translations and displacement attempts prompt new controversies to emerge that challenge the constructed network and the network thus seeks the negotiation of these controversies to secure its position of power. Innovation, from this perspective becomes a question of translating the wills and powerS of actors in order to stabilize a certain meaning in an innovation project network. This thesis then serves to illuminate the intrinsic nature of these innovation network controversies by adopting an understanding of innovations as social constructions whose constituting nature must be understood and managed in order to achieve innovative success.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2009
Number of pages84