Legitimacy-seeking mechanisms in product innovation: A qualitative study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Product innovation research adopts a rational choice perspective to examine resource allocation decisions for product innovation. This research emphasises strategic alignment between the innovation and the organisation as the key factor shaping these decisions. In contrast, organisational research suggests that to access resources, product innovations have to be perceived as legitimate by corporate sponsors. Legitimacy is rooted in alignment with the prevalent corporate norms, beliefs, and cultural model. Adopting an institutional perspective and relying on an in-depth case study of three product innovations, this study explores legitimacy-seeking behaviour in product innovation. The findings indicate that the rational perspective emphasised in most product innovation research is complemented by efforts to seek both moral and cognitive legitimacy to resource product innovation. The study clarifies the critical role that the organisational context plays in triggering legitimacy-seeking behaviour. The analysis unpacks legitimacy-seeking behaviour, revealing patterns of legitimating mechanisms (lobbying, relationship building, and gathering feedback) that are deployed as part of legitimacy strategies (conforming, selecting and manipulating) to achieve a range of legitimacy outcomes (pragmatic, moral and cognitive). The analysis reveals the existence of a hierarchy of legitimacy outcomes as actors prioritise one type of legitimacy versus another. The study also finds inter-dependencies between mechanisms and strategies to reinforce particular outcomes as legitimacy-seeking behaviour evolves over time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-342
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management
Issue number3
Early online date26 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • innovation strategy
  • legitimacy
  • product innovation
  • Institutional theory


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