Innovation: Organization and Management
For a Special Issue on Evaluating, Appreciating, and Selecting New Ideas: The Problematic Journey of Novelty
Manuscript deadline: 31 January 2022
Special Issue Editor(s)
Dirk Deichmann, Erasmus University
Gino Cattani, New York University
Simone Ferriani, University of Bologna & City, University of London
By definition, novelty does not fit well-established categories. In the business world, life outside the mainstream is harsh, and social objects (e.g., ideas, products, technologies, or organizational forms) that lie off the beaten path tend to be overlooked. Although there is a growing consensus that the process of novelty recognition is key to understanding the journey of novelty from the moment it arises to the time it takes hold (e.g., Cattani et al., 2017; Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2017; Sgourev, 2013; Zhou et al., 2017), extant research has yet to expound on a crucial and common problem that tends to undermine the recognition of novelty: entering into the attention space of the evaluating audience(s).
As Csikszentmihalyi (1996: 345) pointed out, “the most fundamental difference between people consists in how much uncommitted attention they have left over to deal with novelty. In too many cases, attention is restricted by external necessity.” The novelty-attention problem reflects a puzzling tension: the type of novelty that demands more attention to be recognized also deflects audiences’ attention away (Trapido, 2015). This problem may by compounded by several factors. Besides simply being overwhelmed by the number of ideas they must sort through (Piezunka & Dahlander, 2015), novelty evaluators may not have the cognitive bandwidth and skills to recognize the value of an idea (Berg, 2016; Criscuolo et al., 2017). In addition, people may have implicit biases against new ideas (Chai & Menon, 2019; Mueller et al., 2012). Research has also shown a tendency among managers to favor ideas from people they know or who somehow resemble them (Aadland et al., 2018; Reitzig & Sorenson, 2013). Such in-group biases often persist even after correcting for the quality of an idea. Whether or not novel ideas are recognized might also depend on how connected they are to other ideas. On the one hand, highly connected ideas might be perceived as novel because they blend existing knowledge in new ways but, on the other hand, they might also be perceived as familiar because people can relate more easily to such connected ideas (Deichmann et al., 2020). Finally, it may well be efficient initially to avoid the novel for the simple reason that favourable novelty is the improbable outcome of processes that ordinarily yield little, or any, reward (March, 2010).
Because any novel social object must attract and win social audience’s attention in order to advance in its legitimation journey, we need scholarly inquiry to deepen our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that govern how and why novelty gets recognition. To this end, we encourage researchers from a diverse array of academic disciplines – including organizational sociology, organizational behavior, strategy and psychology – to submit papers for this special issue that address how novelty and new ideas get evaluated, appreciated, or selected. We are open to different types of conceptual or theoretically grounded empirical work based on qualitative and/or quantitative methods. We especially welcome work that aims to challenge received wisdom in the organizational literature. We also look forward to manuscripts whose theoretical perspectives and empirical findings allow comparing practices across different empirical settings.
To this end, we would like to solicit conceptual and empirical papers addressing the following or similar questions:
- What are the definitions and characteristics of novel ideas?
- How and when does novelty enter the attention space of individuals?
- How do innovators overcome resistance against their novel ideas?
- What kind of framing strategies and narratives may be useful to apply for innovators to help audiences evaluate, appreciate, and select novelty?
- How does the recognition of an innovator’s earlier novel work stimulate or inhibit subsequent behavior such as the generation of new ideas?
- What are the factors that influence the accuracy of idea evaluations?
- How can idea evaluators overcome some of the challenges that are associated with the evaluation, appreciation, and selection of novel ideas?
- How and when do organizations allocate attention to novel ideas?
- When does novelty win the attention of relevant audiences and then progress in its journey towards recognition?
- What audience level features may render the field more or less permeable to the evaluation, appreciation, and selection of novelty?
- What is the role of exogenous shocks in opening entry points for the introduction of novelty?