Voices from the field: How exceptional electronic industrial innovators innovate

Abbie Griffin, Raymond Price, Matthew M. Maloney, Bruce A. Vojak, Edward W. Sim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This exploratory research uses in-depth qualitative interviews to investigate how 11 exceptional innovators in the electronics industry initiated, created, and commercialized radical innovations in their firms. From the data, two initial frameworks emerged for how radical innovations were created by these individuals. Four themes emerged associated with what these innovators bring to the organization as an underpinning for being able to radically innovate. Additional themes emerged as to the process by which they innovate. Across the literatures of innovation, psychology, and management, creativity is discussed in terms of person, product, or process. This research samples on highly creative innovations (products) and finds that it appears that both person and process need to be considered in attaining radical innovation. One may not be able to consider separately the person who achieves radical innovation from the process he or she uses to achieve it. These exceptional innovators have specific personality characteristics that support radically creative behavior, supplemented by a perspective or worldview that focuses on having a business orientation yet also a somewhat idealistic attitude. They have prepared for innovation by studying deeply, within not just one primary technology topic but also a secondary or peripheral technology topic. In addition, they have prepared broadly, across technology, business, and markets. They are both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to innovate. People communicating what problems are urgently important to them to be solved produce external motivation for the innovator, who is then intrinsically motivated to solve these people's problems by creating new products. In terms of how they innovate, these exceptional innovators are organizationally savvy and both understand and participate in the politics necessary to gain acceptance of and resources for their project. They use an innovation process that emphasizes the up-front aspects of finding interesting problems, planning first before executing, and understanding customer needs in great detail. This allows them to generate insights into how to solve those problems profitably for the firm. Once they have obtained and validated their insights for solving the problem, they participate in the actual implementation of the concept to a commercialized product. However, this development aspect of innovating is not much spoken of, as if it is taken for granted. Finally, they actively disseminate knowledge and acceptance of the innovation postinvention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-240
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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