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Executive influence on invention and commercialization: The moderating role of innovation radicalness

Barton M. Sharp (Department of Management, Northern Illinois University, Barsema Hall, DeKalb, Illinois, USA)
Dinesh N. Iyer (School of Business-Camden, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA)
Thomas H. Brush (Krannert School of Management, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

American Journal of Business

ISSN: 1935-5181

Article publication date: 8 August 2017



The purpose of this paper is to expand the understanding of the “front end” of innovation by examining the influence of top executives, who allocate the resources and cultivate the culture in which inventions are born, on the innovation process.


This paper suggests that the effect of executives on innovation can be better understood by explicitly separating innovation into the component processes of invention and commercialization. This allows us to consider how executive characteristics might have a different effect on technology development outcomes than they do on the subsequent transformation of those technologies into new products. The theory is tested on a sample of firms from the biomedical device industry.


The findings indicate that top management team (TMT) age and tenure have no effect on the type of technologies a firm develops (radical vs incremental) but do significantly affect the efficiency with which new technologies are turned into new products in some contexts. TMT heterogeneity affects both the type of technologies developed in the firm and also their transformation to new products. Interestingly, the effect of executives on commercialization depends on the type of underlying technologies which the firm has developed.


This paper contributes to the literatures on TMTs and innovation by offering a more granular explanation of how executives differentially impact the disaggregated stages of the innovation process, and thus also contributes to knowledge of the long-term innovation performance implications of executive leadership.



The authors would like to thank the participants of the European Academy of Management conference for their valuable feedback on an earlier draft of this work. Also, the early stages of this research were conducted with the support of a Purdue Research Foundation grant.


Sharp, B.M., Iyer, D.N. and Brush, T.H. (2017), "Executive influence on invention and commercialization: The moderating role of innovation radicalness", American Journal of Business, Vol. 32 No. 3-4, pp. 134-151.



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