How organizations fail to align: exploring misalignment in innovation ecosystems

W.P.L. van Galen, S.A.M. Dolmans, B. Walrave

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


Developing path-breaking innovation is increasingly dependent on complementary inter-organizational activities that go well beyond internal capabilities and ordinary exchange relationships (Möller & Halinen, 1999; Iansiti & Levien, 2004a; Adner, 2006; Teece, 2007; Dougherty & Dunne, 2011). That is, recent years have seen an ongoing transformation from separate products and services toward highly integrated solutions (Adner, 2006, 2012) implying that the value of a particular innovation increasingly more depends on its integration with other products and/or services (Podoynitsyna et al., 2013). Such a network, in which organizations combine their individual offerings in order to create and provide an overarching value proposition is often referred to as an innovation ecosystem (Adner, 2006, 2012). Innovation ecosystems, especially those underlying path-breaking innovation, are typically characterized by complex networks; composed of differentiated yet highly interdependent stakeholders and organizational roles. As such, it comes as no surprise that ecosystem scholars stress the importance of alignment efforts in an innovation ecosystem context (Adner 2006, 2012; Williamson & De Meyer, 2012; Adner et al., 2013; Overholm, 2014; Walrave et al., 2015). In particular, the performance of the innovation ecosystem as a whole is dependent on its individual stakeholders and vice versa. This also implies that failure of any (key) stakeholder to successfully contribute to and align with the innovation ecosystem negatively impacts every organization in the system (Brusoni and Prencipe, 2013; Moore, 1993; Iansiti & Levien, 2004a; Adner, 2006, 2012; Adner & Kapoor, 2010; Williamson & De Meyer, 2012; Overholm, 2014). Despite the key importance of ecosystem alignment for successful path-breaking innovation, it is difficult to achieve such alignment due to the multitude of stakeholders often involved in such efforts (Wilkinson & Young, 2002; Williamson & De Meyer, 2012; Sharapov et al., 2013; Kapoor & Lee, 2013). Apart from the path-breaking innovation, these organizations typically pursue a diversity of local goals and strategies, based on prior vested interests (Moore, 1993; Williamson & De Meyer, 2012; Sharapov, Thomas, & Autio, 2013; Kapoor & Lee, 2013). In turn, resulting diversities increase the risk that decisions and actions among stakeholders follow divergent or misaligned paths (Adner, 2006, 2012; Williamson & De Meyer, 2012). Yet, we lack an understanding of how such factors influence (the emergence of) inter-organizational misalignment. More specifically, which dimensions underlie misalignment? And why do organizations fail to align over time? We seek to address this gap in the literature. By conducting an in-depth case study of a path-breaking innovation ecosystem, we find multiple factors that influence inter-organizational collaborative patterns and misalignment. By investigating stakeholder misalignment in the Electric Vehicle charging station ecosystem in the Netherlands, we observe that significant misalignments not only emerge between organizations that differ in organizational type (e.g., public vs. private) but also between similar organizations. Our results contribute to the literature on innovation ecosystems by demonstrating various factors underlying organizational misalignment within an innovation ecosystem We find significant differences in organizations’ orientations of temporality based on their innovation planning mode, decision making speed and need for organization. Such differences, in turn, create diverging paths and may ultimately lead to misalignment. Moreover, our findings point to differences in organizational attitudes toward risk as an important factor contributing to misalignment. Our study also has important implications for practice and policy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event32nd EGOS Colloquium - University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy
Duration: 7 Jul 20169 Jul 2016


Conference32nd EGOS Colloquium
Abbreviated titleEGOS2016
OtherOrganizing in the Shadow of Power
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