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Track 6.3 - The Management of Uncertainties in Innovation Activities

Mario SERGIO SALERNO, Prof, University of São Paulo
Elizabeth GARNSEY​, Emeritus Reader in Innovation Studies, University of Cambridge
Gina COLARELLI O'CONNOR, Prof, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Leonardo AUGUSTO DE VASCONCELOS GOMES, Lecturer, University of São Paulo

Track's Contacts


Managing Radical innovation (RI) in large mature companies requires addressing high levels of uncertainties, not only risks. The literature recognizes that firms should build special capabilities to manage RI initiatives (O’Connor et al. 2008, 2018; Bagno et al 2017; Salerno et al 2015). Although grounded theoretical and empirical frameworks exist in the literature for understanding the dynamics of RI’s (e.g. O’Connor&Rice 2013), firms still struggle to deal with the complex uncertainties landscape that RI’s present (Brasil et al. 2018, Eggers&Kaul 2018). Recent studies call for a more systematic approach for confronting uncertainties. For example, new project management processes have been proposed (Rice et. al. 2008). At a systems level, Gomes et al. (2018) proposed a framework for managing uncertainties in the ecosystem; O’Connor et al (2008) propose the emergence of an Innovation Function (IF) in mature companies; O’Connor et al (2018) discuss IF managerial roles; Salerno&Gomes (2018) propose a networked IF in companies; Lubik et al (2013) analyse value creation in university spin offs. These studies open opportunities for further research, drawing upon new theoretical and methodological perspectives.

In this track, we are interested in moving the frontier of knowledge forward by addressing, from different theoretical perspectives, how innovative firms – whether mature or knowledge intensive startups–manage uncertainties associated with radical innovations. We are especially interested in the following topics:

1. What are the types of uncertainties that RI project teams and start-ups face?
2. Which contingencies moderate the ways firms should organize for RI to best cope with uncertainties?
3. How should companies manage uncertainties within innovation ecosystems?
4. How does uncertainty affect the way firms negotiate contracts with external partners for RI projects?
5. How do firms manage the uncertainties present in RI projects at the portfolio level?
6. What firm level capabilities are required to overcome uncertainties present in RI’s?
7. What skills and capabilities are required of managers and entrepreneurs to deal with uncertainties?
8. What heuristics do entrepreneurs or managers use for perceiving and managing uncertainties?


Bagno,R.B. et al. (2017) Models with graphical representation for innovation management. R&D Management,47(4):637-653.
Brasil,V.C. et al. (2018) Valuation of innovation projects with high uncertainty:reasons behind the search for real options. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management,49:109-112.
Eggers,J.P. & Kaul,A. (2018) Motivation and ability?A behavioral perspective on the pursuit of radical invention in multi-technology incumbents. Academy of Management Journal,61(1):67-93.
Gomes,L.A.V. et al.(2013) Unpacking the innovation ecosystem construct. Technological Forecasting&Social Change,136:30-48.
Lubik,S. et al. (2013) Value creation from the innovation environment. R&D Management,43(2):136-150.
O’Connor,G.C. & Rice,M.P.(2013) A comprehensive model of uncertainty for radical innovation, Journal of Product Innovation Management,30:2-18.
O’Connor, G.C. et al. (2018) Beyond the champion: institutionalizing innovation through people. Stanford Univ.Press
O’Connor,G.C. et al (2008) Grabbing Lightining. S.Francisco:J.Bass.
Rice, M.P.et al.R. (2008) Implementing a learning plan to counter project uncertainty. Sloan Management Review,49(2): 4-62.
Salerno,M.S. et al (2015) Innovatin processes: which one for which project? Technovation,35:59-70.
Salerno,M.S. & Gomes,L.A.V. (2018) Gestão da inovação mais radical. Rio de Janeiro:Elsevier.