Factors Influencing the Adoption of Nature Inspired Innovation for Sustainability in Multinational Corporations
Mead, Taryn Lee
Date: 9 June 2017
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Management Studies
In recent decades, many multinational corporations have used nature inspired innovation (NII) strategies as a mechanism of sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI). In this context, these activities are typically initiated by sustainability or innovation managers who are seeking to utilise novel tools and approaches but generally do ...
In recent decades, many multinational corporations have used nature inspired innovation (NII) strategies as a mechanism of sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI). In this context, these activities are typically initiated by sustainability or innovation managers who are seeking to utilise novel tools and approaches but generally do not have specific innovation goals. For some, NII is viewed as a new product development tool and for others, it is a broad perspective that defines a larger sustainability narrative for the organisation. This analysis of six cases describes the diversity of innovation types of NII in multinational corporations aiming to apply these models to sustainability-oriented innovation at multiple levels. Data was collected via semi-structured interviews (n=45) with NII team members from both inside and outside of the organisation. Additional data included internal project documents and web-based content associated with the NII projects. Cases were then compared and contrasted to identify patterns and anomalies of factors that influence the adoption of NII. While perceptions of NII were relatively consistent across cases, several factors were identified related to sustainability perspectives, the role of management, organisational structures, and innovation culture that influenced adoption. This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge within the NII, sustainability-oriented innovation, and innovation adoption literatures by differentiating NII as an approach to SOI in MNCs, establishing an innovation typology in this context, and identifying three SOI narratives that influence the adoption of NII. Specific factors related to sustainability narratives, innovation culture and infrastructure, and management styles that support and inhibit SOI and NII in MNCs are used to distinguish three unique SOI narratives – Ambiguous, Accountable, and Aspirational. Conclusions suggest a NII readiness assessment may facilitate the adoption of NII by identifying the most effective approaches depending on the narrative of SOI within the company.
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