Research on innovation

I am interested in studying the antecedents of innovative behavior, particularly in two types of firms: family businesses and small- and medium-sized enterprises. Both types of organizations deserve increased scholarly innovation due to the prevalence of such businesses all around the world as well as their particularities, e.g., regarding goals or resource stocks. Furthermore, I am interested in investigating organizational adaptation to discontinuous technological changes.


Doing more with less: Innovation input and output in family firms

In this meta-analytical paper, we quantitatively study innovation input and output in family firms. We empirically reveal that family firms invest less into innovation but have higher innovation output. This effect is strengthened when a later generation family CEO is at the helm of the company, but, somewhat surprisingly, turns into the opposite direction if the firm is led by its founder. Moreover we show that innovation input and output are contingent on the institutional context: When minority shareholder protection is high, family firms invest even less (!) into innovation. And when the educational level in the respective country is high, family firms have particularly high innovation output.

To theorize for these effects, we show that a combination of several theories, in particular (behavioral) agency theory and resource orchestration, is needed to fully comprehend family firm behavior. Empirically, this study builds on 108 primary studies from 42 countries, covering the time span from 1981 to 2012.

Findings of this paper challenge current knowledge on the innovation process as they reveal that innovation antecedents – such as family ownership – might be double-edged swords, meaning that they affect input (or output) negatively, while have a positive effect on output (or, respectively, input).

Link to full-text download: here (click on “pdf”)


P. Duran, Kammerlander, N., van Essen, M., Zellweger, T. 2015. Doing more with less: Innovation input and output in family firms. Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming. DOI: 10.5465/amj.2014.0424


The family innovator’s dilemma

In this conceptual paper, my co-authors and I study if family firms are better or worse able to adopt discontinuous technologies. We find that family firms have advantages with regard to the speed of decision making and implementation as well as the “stamina” of their adoption. However, adaptation in family firms is challenged by fewer resources devoted to the adaptation process and by a lower level of routine flexibility. More specifically, we hypothesize that higher levels of family influence (reflected in higher levels of continuity, connections, community, and command) lead to lower levels of formalization, resource dependence, and political resistance. Yet at the same time, family firms might suffer from increased emotional attachment to their core business and rigid mental models. In sum, we suggest that family firms are less threatened by the “classical” innovator’s dilemma (Christensen 1997) but rather face a “family innovator’s dilemma” as they can only choose between two undesired options: Either to risk their firm’s long term success by not adopting the technology. Or they introduce severe disruptions into their connections with external ties and their community of employees, which family members typically value a lot.

Link to full-text download: here (click on “pdf”)


A. König, N. Kammerlander, A. Enders. 2013. The family innovator’s dilemma: How family influence affects the adoption of discontinuous technologies by incumbent firms. Academy of Management Review 38(3) 418-441. DOI: 10.5465/amr.2011.0162


Non-financial goals and adaptation to discontinuous technological change

CEOs are known to possess a variety of non-financial goals which affect their sense and decision making. In this qualitative study, my co-author and I build on a 6 qualitative case studies to induce mid-range theory of how family CEOs’ non-financial goals affect their respective firms’ adaptation to discontinuous technological changes. We find that the primary non-economic goal of the family CEO (e.g., to maintain ultimate control over the firm or to maintain a superior reputation or to be able to hand-over a firm to the children in mid-term future) substantially affects how and why the respective firm engages in innovative activities in both, the old and the new domain. By inducing theory from our observations, we use Ocasio’s (1997) attention based view and extend this perspective by the decision-makers’ non-economic goals.

Link to full-text download: here (click on “pdf”)


N. Kammerlander, M. Ganter. 2015. An attention-based view of family firm adaptation to discontinuous technological change: Exploring the role of family CEOs’ non-economic goals. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 32(3): 361-383.

Article first published online: 23 JUL 2014 | DOI: 10.1111/jpim.12205


CEO’s regulatory focus and exploration/exploitation

How does CEO personality affect the respective firm’s organizational ambidexterity, i.e. its engagement in exploration and exploitation? This question is addressed in a study by myself, Dominik Burger, Alexander Fust, and Urs Füglistaller, which was recently accepted for publication in Journal of Business Venturing.

Building on regulatory focus theory, we theorize how promotion and prevention focus affect the firm’s level of  exploration and exploitation. We further study how those relationships change when competitive intensity is high. We test our hypotheses based on survey responses of 155 CEOs of Swiss SMEs. In addition, we conduct several tests to study the exploration/exploitation of firms that are lead by a CEO with different combinations of high/low promotion and prevention focus. The paper aims to contribute to research on entrepreneurship, ambidexterity, and regulatory focus.

Link to full-text download: here (then click on pdf)

For short video explaining the study and our findings, please click here.


N. Kammerlander, D. Burger, A. Fust, U. Fueglistaller. 2015. Exploration and Exploitation in Established Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: The Effect of CEOs’ Regulatory Focus. Journal of Business Venturing, 30(4): 582–602.


Organizational Identity and Adaptation to Discontinuous Technological Change

How does the firm’s identity, that is the organizational members’ common understanding of who they are as an organization, affect how the firm adapts to discontinuous technological shifts? In this paper we qualitatively study the adaptive behavior of 14 German publishing houses when digitization of publishing emerged around the turn of the centuries.

This paper is currently being revised. It has won the AoM Distinguished Paper Award (BPS division) in 2012 (top 5 out of 745 submissions.)


N. Kammerlander, A. König, A. Enders. 2012. Organizational Identity and Adaptation to Discontinuous Change: The Role of Focus and Locus. Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings, DOI:10.5465/AMBPP.2012.4.


Path dependence and innovation in Italian family wineries

In this qualitative paper we study factors that foster or break path dependence in Italian family wineries and ultimately affect their innovativeness.

This paper is currently being revised. It has won the 2013 “Best unpublished paper” award by the Family Firm Institute and the Academy of Management Best Paper Award in 2015.


N. Kammerlander, C. Dessi, M. Bird, M. Floris. 2015. The impact of storytelling on innovation: A multi-case study. Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings. 


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