Underground Innovation: Missionary, User and Lifestyle projects


Underground innovation has been known to exist already for decades, but its full scope has not yet been mapped. Evidence from unconnected literatures (bootlegging, creative deviance, user innovation, open-source) suggest that multiple types of underground innovation exist, and not always done with organizational benefit as primary driver. We apply a mixed-method approach (interviews, surveys) in the context of a multinational organization concerned with R&D and product development. Three types of underground innovation are identified: missionary (marked by high diffusion persistency to change a company product or practice), user (initiated to solve personal problems at work) and lifestyle (driven by passion for innovation). Comparing these types we detect differences in objects of innovation, involvement of others, employed resources, and diffusion efforts. We discuss that underground innovation includes previously unconnected literatures, and emerges from employees driven by organizational adoption, personal use value, or benefits derived from the innovation process itself

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