Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Rowe, W. Glenn


Various streams of foundational management literatures imply that corporate managers can play a role in the management of intra-organizational innovation processes. However, management scholars have largely assumed that corporate managers do not become actively involved in the management of intra-organizational innovation processes occurring within multidivisional firms. This assumption contrasts with the importance given in the management literature to innovation as an enabler of organizational long-term survival. To address this contrast, my dissertation explores why and how corporate managers adopt an active approach to the management of intra-organizational innovation processes in complex multidivisional firms.

In the first paper, I map extant knowledge of innovation mechanisms onto an evolutionary multilevel framework. I synthesize uncovered mechanisms into structural, behavioural, and routinized corporate approaches to innovation management. I conclude this paper by proposing a comprehensive research agenda for exploring complex interactions between top-down and bottom-up innovation processes occurring within a multidivisional firm.

In the second paper, I propose a mid-range theory of corporate innovation activism elaborating two novel concepts. The corporate innovation synergy concept encapsulates mechanisms available to corporate managers to increase the efficiency of intra-organizational innovation processes. The corporate innovation value-added concept concerns mechanisms available to corporate managers to qualitatively improve intra-organizational innovation processes in ways unavailable at the business unit level. I organize my arguments into a theoretical model and discuss limitations of my theory, offering important opportunities for future research.

In the third paper, I explore the genesis of corporate managers’ capability to influence innovation management in a multidivisional firm; I call this the corporate innovation function. I combine proprietary narrative data with archival records to study the development of the corporate innovation function in 20 large multidivisional firms. Based on my observations of 17 corporate innovation processes, I develop a corporate innovation function typology comprised of collaborative, parallel-capability, and sponsorship corporate innovation function models. I link differences across the corporate innovation function configurations to firm-level innovation performance.

In the fourth paper, I elaborate on the concept of dynamic corporate innovation capability, which enables a multidivisional firm to continuously discover, evaluate, and monetize innovations that are novel to the firm and the markets in which the firm operates. Exploiting further the proprietary narrative and archival dataset, I first establish the prototypical role of a senior innovation manager and identify four underlying mechanisms that enable the establishment of a dynamic corporate innovation capability: senior innovation manager legitimacy, corporate innovation ambition, corporate innovation processes, and corporate innovation routines. Using a system dynamics approach, I synthesize my findings in a dynamic model, disentangling the complex process of maintaining exploration in an organizational environment biased towards exploitation.