In progress Vision and Cognition in Disruptive Innovation Process



Disruptive innovation theory has enjoyed vast interest from practice and academia. Nevertheless, over the past two decades the field has seen a drought of empirical work, and an abundance of academic disputes. This dissertation aims to enhance the predictive validity and generalizability of the disruptive innovation theory, and to promote further empirical testing. Contributions are threefold – first, through a review of the literature I provide an extended framework of the disruptive innovation process based on the disruption schema from Sood and Tellis (2006), which indicates the antecedents and competitive outcomes of the disruptive innovation process. Second, in three studies this dissertation aims to specify the effects of the visions and cognitions of firms that introduce disruptive innovation in disrupting markets and disrupting firms, and how they can influence their own success. Third, in doing so, this dissertation creates a more dynamic view– enlightening the firm agency side of the disruptive innovation process.


Disruptive innovation theory; vision communication; learning from failure; potentially disruptive innovations; demand disruption; firm disruption; vision framing; institutional entrepreneurs; disruptor success; incumbent responses.

Time frame

2014 - 2017


Examples of topics for a Ph.D. project within this theme are the following:

  • Disruptive innovation.

Disruptive innovations drastically change the basis of competition and reshape the marketplace (Christensen, 1997). A recent trend also documents so-called ‘frugal’ innovations which focus on the consumer needs in developing economies, and are subsequently commercialized and disrupt the developed markets (Govindarajan, 2012). Despite prevalence of the disruptive innovations in business, our knowledge on the process of disruptive innovations is limited (Ansari and Krop, 2012; Christensen, 2006; Yu and Hang, 2010). This project will explain why organizations pursue disruptive innovation strategies and how organizations can better manage their innovation process to foster disruptive innovations. In addition to clear academic contributions, this project will provide invaluable insights to executives in managing disruptive innovations and protecting themselves against disruptive threats.

A full project description is available from Murat Tarakci,


  • The vision of innovation

Innovation, and especially radical innovation, generally starts with a vague and ambiguous idea: An extremely cheap car, a very attractive cool computer, a new way to make energy etc. Such ideas are visions of the future, images of how the future could look like, and if the founder of the idea is to sell his/her innovation, (s)he should better be good at communicating his/her vision. Even the most promising ideas need to overcome obstacles: People naturally say no, rather than yes to new endeavors! This is the heart of this thesis topic: How can people communicate visions about innovations most effectively? How can they persuade others that, indeed, it is this innovation that is needed! To some extent we investigate a hidden topic in innovation management: The politics of innovation. Students that are interested in this topic should be willing to do quantitative research in the laboratory or in the field regarding vision communication. Most likely the theoretical basis of their ideas will come from political science, leadership, and/or social psychology.

Further information: Daan Stam,


  • Standardization

A main challenge for innovation management is the realization of complex-systems innovations, like smart energy systems. These systems are very complex because they interconnect originally independent subsystems, e.g. from the electricity, ICT and automotive sectors involving not only Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SMEs), but also public institutions. Furthermore, the various subsystems have different traditions in standardization and mostly uncoordinated technical standards. However, common standards are needed within and between the various subsystems to provide interoperability, quality, security and safety to enable complex-systems innovations. The focus in this project lies on the development of conceptual models for standardization institutions and processes, but also for standards documents to promote complex systems innovations in such a way that both technological feasibility, sustainable business models and market acceptance can be expected taking into account insights not only from standardization management, but also from dominant design and platform management literature.

For further information on this project contact: Henk de Vries or Knut Blind


  • Idea management

Managers increasingly rely on their employees to take the initiative, go beyond their assigned tasks, take charge, and initiate new ideas in addition to their day-to-day jobs (for reviews, see Crant 2000, Frese and Fay 2001, Grant and Ashford 2008, Grant and Parker 2009). However, many employee ideas also need to be declined because only a few can actually be implemented. Because idea generation and development is discretionary (ideas are generated in employees spare time, in addition to their day-to-day job), it is unclear how the rejection of ideas affects future idea generation and development by the same employees. This projects aims at providing recommendations for firms who want to stimulate continued and improved idea generation and development.

Further information can be retrieved from Dirk Deichmann,


  • Managing innovation in the supply chain

As product innovations become more complex and interdependent, firms tend to increasingly outsource innovation activities to external parties such as component suppliers. We have little understanding, however, of how firms can manage these external parties and ensure that project effectiveness, efficiency, and creativity are all maintained. Strict control over suppliers may, for example, increase project efficiency but simultaneously decrease the supplier’s autonomy that is required for effective problem solving. Loose control may lead to active and creative problem solving behavior, but may increase the chance that projects run of track. This research project aims to investigate the consequences of different control mechanisms and systems for outsourcing alliances and provide recommendations for firms and their suppliers on how to jointly innovative effectively.

Further information: Serge Rijsdijk,

Supervisory Team

Jan van den Ende
Professor of Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Promotor
Fabian Sting
Associate Professor of Operations Management
  • Member Supervisory Team