Keynote address by E. Burton Swanson

E. Burton Swanson, UCLA Anderson School, USA

Inside the IT Innovation Wave Machine

With the rise of modern information technology (IT), managers face seemingly one wave of IT innovation after another.  At any one time, the executive is likely to feel more or less inundated by a current wave, unsure of what all the commotion is about, unable to avoid the topic in conversation, and suspicious that it merely reflects the latest marketing hype.  How should this apparent IT wave phenomenon be understood by managers?  Drawing from our own and others’ research, we provide an answer, explicating here the workings of an institutional apparatus that we term the “IT innovation wave machine,” which carries an innovation through five stages: (i) ground breaking; (ii) vision launching; (iii) attention gathering; (iv) bandwagon building; and (v) momentum riding.  Each individual wave is further revealed to comprise a wave complex, where technology adoptions and implementations are pulled along by the community’s attention to an organizing vision, which promises value from the innovation, but which will typically dissipate long before such value is fully achieved.  By understanding these dynamics and particulars, executives can better position themselves and their own decisions to innovate.

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