Innovation success by innovation quality – this is in short the answer to the question: what leads to the rare success, what to the predominant failure of complex innovations? To find the answer, we compared a group of successful innovations with a group of failed innovations in an exploratory meta-analysis.

We define innovations as successful if industries with high and stable concentration of vendors emerged from them. We define them as failed, if a huge one-time expense was lost. For the group comparison, a method of Statistical Engineering, we have

  • defined innovation success as control variable with two characteristics „successful“ and „failed“,
  • collected and studied case studies about successful and failed innovations,
  • grouped ten successful innovations that represent the variety of complex innovations (typewriter, electric lighting, automotive, aircraft, photography, calculator, integrated circuits, mass storage, float glass, cracking of petroleum),
  • then also ten failed innovations (Schneller Brüter/Fast Breeder, Transrapid, electromobility, stirling engine in vehicle, locomotive with coal dust, steam locomotive, hydraulic mining, Toll Collect, microwave oven, ebook)
  • formulated a hypothesis of both business and technological actuating variables and their interactions,
  • examined actuating variables and their interactions on different characteristics between the two groups,
  • tested different characteristics for statistical significance with an error probability of 5%.

Seven actuating variables lead to success or failure of complex innovations:

  • Technological value potential
  • Socio-technical system compatibility
  • Timing
  • Technological efficiency potential
  • Problem transparency
  • Problem solving
  • Quality of the innovation system

We bundle these seven actuating variables into one success factor, the innovation quality. Another actuating variable, the degree of innovation, did not prove as significant.

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