Dynamics of innovation network practices in tourism
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Research increasingly focuses on innovation in service and experience. Topics of debate include whether innovation in manufacturing industries is similar to that in service and experience industries and whether inter-organizational collaboration in the latter industries may be even more important for innovation than in manufacturing. The understanding of innovation as taking place primarily within organizational boundaries has been recognized as limiting, with open and interactive innovation being promoted as a way to address business-facing resource constraints on the one hand and a constantly changing environment on the other. As a result, many forms of inter-organizational innovation, including innovation networks, have been discussed in the contexts of diverse industries. During the past decade, however, it has repeatedly been argued that, given the primary focus on innovation results, our understanding of the origins and development of innovation networks remains limited. Therefore, the main objective of this thesis is to increase understanding of the dynamics of innovation networks over time. In order to contribute to an understanding of the dynamic and situated nature of network innovation, the thesis suggests taking a practice-based perspective on innovation networks. This involves looking closely at how, why and what network members do in their network activities to facilitate development of innovation and achieve specific results. By looking at how the practices of various network stakeholders interrelate, a practice-based perspective may further contribute to innovation network research by illuminating how network innovation is enacted in member companies, a topic to which the research literature pays little attention. This thesis argues that the family of practice-based approaches may accommodate an integrative, dynamic view on innovation networks that can be applied to diverse sectors of the economy. This empirical qualitative study explores innovation network practices based on case studies of regional innovation networks that include firms, research and development institutions and public bodies. The study is conducted in the context of the Norwegian tourism industry with both service- and experience-based companies. The research results of four appended papers include complementary findings that describe the development of innovation networks as a journey, discuss the management of networks’ practices through various orchestration roles and suggest an understanding of the integration of network innovation by member companies as a process of mirroring. These three metaphors in the study of the multifaceted phenomena of innovation network practices are inspired by previous innovation research and new insights. This thesis makes both theoretical and practical contributions. Its theoretical contribution lies in using a practice-based perspective to understand the dynamics of innovation networks. A combination of genealogical, configurational and dialectical traditions in practice-based research allows the integration of the findings of separate research papers into a model of innovation network practices with theoretical implications for practice, innovation and network theory. The discussion of innovation network practices as dynamic and embedded, developed in an environment of interference from several types of network-member practices, leads to the development of the concept of balanced innovation. Balanced innovation refers to the enactment of network innovation in the practices of network members. It implies that network members need both to sustain their core practices and continually innovate by integrating network innovations. The thesis concludes with practical implications for network and company management, and public organizations that facilitate the development of innovation networks. These implications reflect different view on the development of innovation networks as a combination of both planned and emergent, bottom-up processes rooted in the practices of network members. This means that network management and facilitating organizations need to cultivate industry-specific knowledge as well as provide more supporting and cultivating roles in network management.