Organizing Systemic Innovation Defended on Thursday, 12 February 2009

Systemic innovation refers to product development activities that involve the change of multiple interdependent components. Unlike autonomous innovation, which refers to components that change independently, systemic innovation is for many firms the norm rather than the exception. This is for instance the result of increased efforts to develop products from multiple (new) technologies, such as mobile phones. The systemic nature of innovation, combined with its inherent uncertainty, makes it a challenging task to organize and manage this process as well as possible. This is why this thesis develops and tests several theories to explain the performance of new product development (NPD) projects. Of main concern are the performance implications of a project’s organizational form. This thesis, for instance, proposes and refines a configurational theory about the integration of component development projects by systems integrators. These firms are responsible for the coherent design and development of (complex) product systems, i.e. systems integration. The theory predicts that systems integrators carefully combine project ownership, supplier involvement, knowledge management, and coordination intensity to improve their products. This thesis also tests to what extent the organization of NPD projects contributes to the capability of NPD teams to solve technical problems. The results indicate that systemic problems require differently organized teams than autonomous problems. For instance, systemic problems are solved relatively fast in the presence of a powerful project manager. In addition, we find that search for external information helps to generate high-quality solutions for systemic problems, but only to a certain degree. After that, this effect turns negative.


systemic innovation, systems integration, vertical integration, dimensions of integration, problem solving, configurational theory, new product development, project performance, interdependence, systemic problems

Preferred reference

Jaspers, F.P.H. (2009, February 12). Organizing Systemic Innovation (No. EPS-2009-160-ORG). ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management. Erasmus Research Institute of Management. Retrieved from

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