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SME family business innovation: exploring new combinations

Summer Brines (MIB, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Deborah Shepherd (MIB, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Christine Woods (MIB, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Journal of Family Business Management

ISSN: 2043-6238

Article publication date: 30 September 2013




Continued research around innovation within small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) family businesses is needed to better understand the influence of specific resources and capabilities that might promote and/or constrain entrepreneurial activities. The purpose of this paper is to develop an organising framework investigating SME family business innovation drawing on a Schumpeterian understanding of innovation as the introduction of new combinations.


Four guiding principles are developed and applied to an illustrative case study of an entrepreneurial family business that highlights the usefulness of complexity thinking for understanding innovation.


NZ Sock provides a rich illustrative case study to highlight how principles of complexity thinking along with Schumpeterian notions of innovation can usefully inform the authors’ understanding of entrepreneurial SME family businesses. The proposed guiding principles offered are borne out in application to the illustrative case example.

Research limitations/implications

The findings suggest that complexity thinking and a Schumpeterian lens can usefully inform and extend the authors’ understanding of innovation within entrepreneurial SME family businesses. Further research would benefit from exploring the guiding principles proposed in other entrepreneurial SME family businesses to further substantiate this field of inquiry.

Practical implications

Principles of complexity thinking may provide additional understanding and insight for SME family business members needing to innovate and adapt to ever-changing operating environments.


Innovation is critical to the long-term survival and success of such firms; yet, to date little theoretical contribution and research has been offered in the field of innovation within the context of SME family businesses. Complex adaptive systems provide a lens from which to understand such businesses and that that a complexity framework helpfully allows attention to be given to such phenomena as emergence, adaptability and combinations through which innovation outcomes and processes may be understood. This paper offers four guiding principles that can be further tested and refined.



Brines, S., Shepherd, D. and Woods, C. (2013), "SME family business innovation: exploring new combinations", Journal of Family Business Management, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 117-135.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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