Honda's Predisposition towards Radical and Disruptive Innovations

  • Holford D
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Abstract

A - General Information (author names, addresses, etc.) W.David Holford University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) School of Management Department of Management and Technology P.O. Box 8888, Downtown Station Montreal, Quebec H3C 3P8 Canada e-mail: holford.wdavid(at)uqam.ca Mehran Ebrahimi University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) School of Management Department of Management and Technology P.O. Box 8888, Downtown Station Montreal, Quebec H3C 3P8 Canada e-mail: - Primary Author W.David Holford (not a full time student) C - Primary and Secondary Track Numbers Primary Track 13 Secondary Track 1 D - Abstract/Paper Title Hondas Predisposition Towards Radical and Disruptive Innovations E - Structured Abstract 1. Background Hondas long term view to R&D does not seem to hamper its nimbleness to provide innovative products that are not only new to its historical business markets, but offer significant differentiating product attributes. For example, Hondas first experience and resounding success in the North American motorcycle market in the 1970s is described by Christensen (1997) as an example of having developed a disruptive technology across its 50 cc motorbike; while Hondas first pick-up truck (the Ridgeline) unveiled in 2005, won the NAIAS North American Truck of the Year Award in early 2006 with better than expected sales. And finally, its recent announcements to enter the microjet market across the commercialization of its HondaJet aircraft appears to be consistent with Hondas history of never entering new markets with a me-too approach. 2. Problem Research Questions In light of Hondas recognized innovative prowess in most industries that it focuses upon (Cooper, 2005) : 1) What type of innovation approach (e.g. sustaining, radical or disruptive) differentiates Honda as being an innovative firm; and 2) What type of organizational approach supports the type of innovation that Honda generates? 3. Methodology The methodology pursued in this proposed conceptual paper are twofold. First, a critical hermeneutical analysis of key R&D reports and second-hand interviews related to the HondaJet and Ridgeline product development initiatives allowed us to manually analyze second-hand technical data and verbatim. This provided a first-level of proposed concepts and hypotheses related to the nature of innovation Honda generates. Secondly, these were further developed across a review of past organizational research conducted on Honda, as well as of certain management literature on innovation. Key linkages between these concepts and the original technical and verbal information associated to the development of the HondaJet and the Ridgeline allowed us to then discern Hondas organizational approach in relation to the innovation it generates. The proposed associations and ideas in this paper were based on the quality of matching linguistic terms in the technical and verbal data with that found in the literature on innovation and organizational theory. 4. Findings Product development programs showed clear patterns of coherency with technologies and design themes developed in preceding product development projects. Certain pertinent analogies were induced by these coherent innovation patterns: namely, living mythologies and societies, healthy doubt or ambivalence in regards to retained knowledge, and creative routines. These analogies are a first indication of dialectics, whether as co-existence or synthesis of contradictions. A further examination of the management literature on Honda clearly indicates Hondas dialectical approach within the organization. Our own cross reference to technical reports and second-hand verbatim in relation to both the HondaJet and the Honda Ridgeline product development programs, as well as to their respective precursor development programs, revealed that the organizational approach can best be described as a dialectical holographic metaphor. There is also a clear relationship between Hondas dialectical holograph, especially in regards to knowledge creation as seen across the HondaJet and Honda Ridgeline development programs, and a general predisposition towards producing radical and disruptive innovations according to Christensens (1997) definition. Yet, Hondas approach is also in marked contrast to Christensens (1997) own epistemology and proposed process as to how to attain disruptive innovations. Borrowing from both Enriquez (1992) and Weick (1979 and 2001b) in regards to group dynamics and organizational sense-making, and certain associated key enabling conditions, we propose a conceptual framework that we hope can provide further insights as to how an organization can achieve the dialectic holographic metaphor; and in turn, a general predisposition towards generating either radical or disruptive innovations. 5. Conclusions 1) Both the HondaJet and the Honda Ridgeline are viewed as being both radical and disruptive innovations according to Christensens (1997) definition. Furthermore, both product development programs showed clear patterns of coherency with technologies and design themes developed in preceding product development projects (hence, coherent innovation). Hence, Hondas resulting innovations display by the simultaneous characteristic of continuity and novelty. 2) Hondas organizational approach in support of this type of innovation can best be described as a dialectical holographic metaphor. 3) Hondas approach is also in marked contrast to Christensens (1997) own epistemology and proposed process as to how to attain disruptive innovations. 4) A conceptual framework that we believe provides further insights as to how an organization can achieve the dialectic holographic metaphor, and in turn, a general predisposition towards generating either radical or disruptive innovations, is proposed. F - Abstract is for a paper G - Would like this abstract/paper to be considered for the conference paper competition

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  • David W. Holford

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