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Barriers to radical process innovation: a case of environmental technology in the oil industry

Amir Bahman Radnejad (School of Business and Management, SUNY-Brockport, Brockport, New York, USA)
Oleksiy Osiyevskyy (Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Harrie Vredenburg (Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Article publication date: 16 July 2020

Issue publication date: 13 October 2020




While a radical innovation can be embedded in new products or new processes, most studies to date have concentrated on barriers to radical product innovations, with little insights available about the challenges for implementation of radical process innovations.


We theorize a set of barriers to radical process innovation based on a critical case study of an oil company. Our study employs data from 14 semi-structured interviews, one complete participant-observer in the process and access to all corporate documentation. The organization being studied was eventually unable to bring the new process technology to commercialization despite the technology having both technical feasibility and substantive cost savings potential.


We identify five groups of challenges that the company faced: (1) challenges in resource mobilization, (2) challenges in piloting strategy, (3) innovation leadership tensions, (4) tensions in managing shareholders' expectations and (5) product-process innovation tension (i.e. a unique situation when a company implementing a radical process innovation and simultaneously pursues the path to commercialize it as a product innovation).

Practical implications

Sustainable development is one of the major challenges in our era. Process innovations are crucial for achieving sustainability without changing the final product. By providing a list of challenges that executives face in the process of commercializing a radical process innovation, we can help them to achieve sustainability more effectively.


The paper responds to the call to increase our understanding of radical process innovations by utilizing a unique ethnographic research methodology of active participant-observation complemented by independent third-party face-to-face interviews.



Radnejad, A.B., Osiyevskyy, O. and Vredenburg, H. (2020), "Barriers to radical process innovation: a case of environmental technology in the oil industry", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 453-476.



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