Unobtrusive Maintenance: Temporal Complexity, Latent Category Control and the Stalled Emergence of the Cleantech Sector

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Journal Article
Journal of Management Studies, 2018, 55 (7), pp. 1242 - 1277
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© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Society for the Advancement of Management Studies Disruptive innovation changes the basis of competition within an industry and poses substantial threats for market incumbents. While researchers have focused on whether incumbents can successfully adapt, we know little about how potentially disruptive innovation may be avoided. Studying clean technology in Canada, we examine incumbent resistance when potentially disruptive technologies are seen as socially beneficial. We identify actions taken by incumbents and other socio-technical regime actors to respond to the issue while simultaneously enacting legitimate stabilizing mechanisms within the regime’s institutional infrastructure. Specifically, temporal and resource-based actions led to temporal complexity for disruptive cleantech entrepreneurs, and evaluation structuring work led to latent control of the cleantech category, privileging incumbents and resulting in unobtrusive maintenance. Our findings contribute to the disruptive innovation and institutional theory literatures by showing how disruption may be stalled by the enactment of legitimate elements of the institutional infrastructure rather than direct institutional defence.
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