RESEARCH BRIEF: Contextual Innovation Management

by Johanna Madrigal,

Understanding how to manage innovation is vital when innovating is the strategy to growth and to remain competitive (Drucker, 1999), thus for a successful innovation management model some authors stated that the idea of a single mainstream approach is no longer useful for the fast changing environment in the market. Based on this (Ortt & Van der Duin, 2008) recommend two aspects to be considered when managing innovation. There are:


1. Definition of the context Innovation management can take place internally and externally.

Internally, the strategy and the organizational structure are key aspects of the organization’s culture therefore they have a great impact on how innovation is managed. With the strategy, an organization can determine if in terms of innovation, the firm wants to be an imitator, a leader or a follower. Also, how an organization is structured, impacts how innovation processes are held (i.e. innovation process per division, centralized innovation process). In terms of external environment, organizations will have to consider terms such as copyright, local laws, type of governments (i.e. egalitarian, authoritative), and legal agreements with other countries (Chiesa, 2001). It is not an isolated process anymore. Just like the evolution of species, innovation management is facing the world approach.

2. Managerial decisions in different contexts

Being an innovation manager means that decisions will be taken constantly within different contexts, having two levels they impact: strategic level where decisions are made before any innovation process starts, and the operational level where decisions are made during the innovation process shaping the outcome on the run. By understanding these contexts, a firm must develop an exhaustive professional profile for the innovation managers. Managing innovation based on contexts brings many advantages since managers can separate for standard approaches which tend to be too rigid and include variations such as the latest scientific research or the adequate timing for product introduction. Also contextual innovation management will enable more flexible processes, including “trial and error” mode as something acceptable in the innovation process. However, as in every approach there are some disadvantages as well. Using contextual innovation management may result in having different approaches with the same organization, which will increase the level of difficulty making innovation happen.


Chiesa, V. (2001). R&D Strategy and Organization: Managing Technical Change in Dynamic Contexts. London: Imperial College Press.

Drucker, P. (1999, September 25). Innovate or die: Drucker on financial services. The Economist.

Ortt, J., & Van der Duin, P. (2008). The evolution of innovation management toeards contextual innovation. European Journal of Innovation Management, 11(4), 16.