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The Leadership of Innovation in British Small to Medium Sized Software Enterprises

Stanley, Paul Robert (2020) The Leadership of Innovation in British Small to Medium Sized Software Enterprises. Doctoral thesis, York St John University.

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Abstract

This thesis describes qualitative research into the experience of executive leaders and software engineers engaged in innovation in British small- and medium-sized software enterprises (SMSE). It asks, “How are executive leaders of British SMSE perceived to influence the innovative work behaviour of software engineers?”. Executive leaders, software engineers, and private equity (PE) investors were interviewed, and the data transcribed and coded using constructivist grounded theory methodology (CGTM) (Charmaz 2014). Coding revealed new insights into innovation leadership in SMSE.

Theory suggests innovation is important to firm survival and success (Pisano 2019). Leader support for creativity and innovation in software firms is considered strategic (Florida and Goodnight 2005). However, executive leaders in this study were concerned with cash generation, primarily focusing on customers and funders. Once firms established product market fit, innovation became incremental, focused on features, functions and processes. Leaders were transactional (Bass 1985) and instrumental (Antonakis and House 2014) in their interaction with engineers and did not try to influence creative climate (Amabile 1996; Ekvall 1996), pursuing exploitative incremental innovation and rarely considering exploratory innovation (Tushman and O’Reilly 1996).

Software engineers had little interest in commercial matters, but favoured innovation, particularly if it allowed them to use new tools, techniques, and languages. They embraced technical change but were less comfortable with cultural change. They did not establish close relationships with their leaders and saw them as being responsible for providing resources to enable objectives to be achieved.

PE investors aspired to invest in firms that had established product market fit and were focused on growth and margin improvement. They rarely supported innovation requiring additional funding or not focused on improving short-term competitive advantage or margin. They preferred working with executives focused on delivering the original investment thesis and so tolerated incremental innovation but were less supportive of explorative innovation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Status: Published
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
School/Department: York Business School
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5057

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