Grant: Peter Pribilla Foundation

Leadership For Innovation – Visualizing The Invisible
Failure-Driven Innovation
Peter Pribilla-Stiftung

The grant provides one-year of expenses to conduct and disseminate research on leadership and innovation.

The goal of this project is to investigate how parliaments use information technology to spur innovation in the legislative process. This funding opportunity will expand my planned book beyond US National Government. Deliverables include two high quality teaching case studies per person  and conferences. Our team was invited to include our case studies in the Wiley Publishing Group’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship online case study repository. The funding agency requires an interim report (April 2013) and a final report to the foundation board (October 2013).

Granting Agency: The Peter Pribilla Foundation, Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. Handelshochschule Leipzig (HHL) Leipzig Graduate School of Management.

Total Award : 60,000 EUR


Abstract:Unexpected events with large-scale negative consequences trigger new solutions yet failure is rarely considered as a source of innovation. Failures reveal systemic problems in behavior, institutional logics, or culture but they are also opportunities for growth and change. Past research has shown that organizations learn more effectively from failures than from success. Experiences that challenge the status quo are opportunities for reflection on existing values and assumptions. We therefore argue that failure experiences are an important trigger for innovation. We suggest that the process that leads from failure to innovation, has remained by and large invisible to researchers as well as to students.

When it comes to research and teaching on innovation, case selection suffers from a success bias. Academia tells stories of breakthrough innovations to practitioners yet focuses, in the classroom, on successful organizations and best-performers. This project unpacks the zone of obscurity that has emerged around the notions of failure and innovation. We address the following questions: Why do we rely only on success-stories? Do we foster misconceptions about the nature of innovation? Can we augment our knowledge from success stories through failure stories? And how can we make this knowledge visible and accessible for all?

Focusing on failures with consequences for either the organization or for the broader society, the objective of this project is to research and disseminate a set of in depth-case studies that would:
1) make failure experiences visible for innovation management teaching
2) make visible the mechanisms that link failure experiences to innovation
3) make visible the facilitating role of leadership in this process

Our research team will investigate the relationship between innovation, failure and leadership across the domains of manufacturing, construction, emergency management, technology, health care, public safety and government.

Budget: Any intangibles such as travel, hotel, conference fees, etc.

Work products: (Dec 2012) Developed and submitted workshop on innovation for the Academy of Management (July 2013) Teaching cases for Wiley Innovation Series (Summer) Conference Workshop (Fall) Special Issue Paper (October 2013 ) Foundation board presentation

Dates: November 2012 – October 2013

Application: Invitation-only.
First United States citizen to be awarded fellowship.

-Visible Data: Government Accountability Failure and Innovation
-Innovation in Parliamentary Technology


Dr. Olivier Berthod
– Inventing Collaboration in Urgency: The Case of a Foodborne Disease Outbreak

Dr. Allen Alexander 
– Failing to Enter the Supermarket Sector in China: Lessons from Tesco’s Failed Roll-Out Across a Continent

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Kunert
– Wasted Idea Management: On the Implementation of an Idea Management System in a Recycling Firm

Dr. Torsten-Oliver Salge
– Failing to Learn from Failure: Insights from the Mid Staffordshire Hospital Scandal

More Information: The Project’s Webpage