The role of innovation management units (InMUs) in radical innovation: case studies in the Deutsche Telekom Group

Bungartz, Thomas (2007). The role of innovation management units (InMUs) in radical innovation: case studies in the Deutsche Telekom Group. PhD thesis The Open University.



The long-term success of companies often depends on innovating beyond incremental change, but internal organisational factors often push efforts towards incremental innovations. Considerably less is known about appropriate structural solutions to foster radical innovation compared with incremental developments.

This research seeks to extend the theory and understanding of how to organise innovation activities through supporting structures that foster radical innovation. The focus of the study is on structures known as Innovation Management Units (lnMUs), operating at the corporate and divisional levels within a large organisation operating in turbulent markets. The research provides an explorative account supported by empirical evidence, featuring embedded case studies within a single organisation. Comparative cases were used to explore the similarities and differences between lnMU approaches, as exemplified by the Deutsche Telekom Group.

Through the analysis of core functions and the role comprehension of lnMUs, this study contributes to the academic understanding of innovation, and informs discussions on 'Innovation Hubs' and whether such units should be separated from, or integrated in, the operational organisation. It contributes to theory by providing empirical evidence that corporate and divisional lnMU approaches - despite partial differences in the spectrum of tasks and organisational integration - can be an appropriate structural vehicle for fostering radical innovation. This study demonstrates that the tasks of such units described in the innovation management literature have to be expanded and that the "transfer-point", where the preliminary work of an lnMU is handed over for implementation, is crucial. Moreover, in turbulent environments, such structural approaches must seriously take into account the 'promoter-approach' to implement an efficient innovation management system within an enterprise. Finally, by providing a conceptual framework based upon 'lnMU design components' and by identifying lessons learnt that are critical to success, the implications for practice are also covered within this study.

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