To develop innovations in large, mature organisations, individuals often have to resort to underground or “bootleg” research and development (R&D) activities that have no formal organisational support. In doing so, these individuals attempt to achieve greater autonomy over the direction of their R&D efforts and to escape the constraints of organisational accountability.
Drawing on theories of proactive creativity and innovation, this project tries to understand how these underground R&D efforts help individuals explore uncharted territory and delay assessment of embryonic ideas to develop innovations. Our research studies the conditions under which individual’s bootleg efforts are associated with achievement of high levels of innovative performance and, among other factors, whether the costs and benefits of bootlegging are contingent on emphasised enforcement of organisational norms in the individual’s work environment.
A second piece of research builds on theories of middle-status conformity and autonomy to examine the antecedents of bootlegging efforts by inventors. In doing so, we investigate the impact of individual, technological and organisational factors on the relationship between inventor status and his / her propensity to engage in bootlegging.
- Criscuolo, P., Salter, A. & Ter Wal, A. (2014), Going Underground: Bootlegging and Individual Innovation Performance, Organization Science, Volume 25(5), pp.1287-1305.