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Eric Dahlin

Associate Professor
Current Faculty

A common misconception about innovation, especially in Western cultures that celebrate individualism, is that an exemplary organization or visionary individual is the singular force that drives success. However, despite many valiant efforts, most new products fail.

Economic history is littered with examples of technologically superior alternatives confined to product-development purgatory that failed spectacularly upon reaching the market, or remained in obscurity for decades before eventual adoption. The broad reason innovation success is elusive is an incomplete understanding of the social and cultural factors that limit product success. Thus, the importance of social context for innovation success is a common thread running through my research.

My research focuses on the following closely-related themes:
1) Relative Innovation. Whether a product is novel depends on one’s point of view. This idea represents a small and under-developed thread woven into the work of prominent innovation scholars Everett Rogers and Andrew Van de Ven. I have developed this idea in past research and in current research I am elucidating the implications for innovation success.

2) Antecedents of Innovation. Some organizations possess extensive resources deployed in the service of invention-related activities. For this reason, my research on the antecedents of innovation coalesces around organizations.

3) Social Impacts of Innovation. I am currently investigating the ways in which innovation impacts the “day-to-day quality of life of persons.” Rogers seminal work also describes the innovation development process as having six stages relating to all “decisions, activities, and … impacts” (italics added) of an innovative object, with the final stage including the consequences of the innovation.

Still, the consequences of innovation remain systematically under-examined. Accordingly, I am engaged in a number of research activities to address this.