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How do innovators stay innovative? A longitudinal case analysis

Sven Tuzovic (School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Jochen Wirtz (Department of Marketing, National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Loizos Heracleous (Warwick Business School, Coventry, UK)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 11 January 2018

Issue publication date: 19 February 2018




How can some companies be the innovation leader in their industry over prolonged periods of time, whereas others cannot? The purpose of this study is to understand a firm’s capability to be a successful serial innovator and to generate a constant stream of industry-leading innovations.


The paper uses a longitudinal case study approach to gain an understanding of what and how Singapore Airlines sustained service innovation for over 30 years. The study uses triangulation, whereby the core data from in-depth interviews with senior and middle management and frontline employees were complemented with academic research, case studies, annual reports, observations and archival documents. In total, 240 single-spaced pages of interview transcripts with over 130,000 words were analyzed and coded using MAXQDA for identifying repeated patterns of meaning.


The authors identified three key institutional foundations for service innovation: innovation climate (i.e. leadership and service culture), human capital (i.e. recruitment, training and development and engagement and incentives) and resource configurations (i.e. systems, structure and processes). These foundations enabled the organization to build the following four service innovation-related dynamic capabilities: embrace ambidexterity, institutionalize learning and knowledge integration, orchestrate collaboration and reinvent customer value. Interestingly, these institutional foundations and capabilities remained largely stable across 30 years; what changed were the contexts and specifics, not the foundations and capabilities.

Research limitations/implications

Data were collected only from one company. Because of the method of thematic analysis, the generalizability of the findings needs further investigation.


This study is the first to investigate the drivers of industry-leading sustained service innovation over a prolonged period of time. The proposed framework provides a fuller and more integrated picture of sustained service innovation than past cross-sectional studies.



Tuzovic, S., Wirtz, J. and Heracleous, L. (2018), "How do innovators stay innovative? A longitudinal case analysis", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 34-45.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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