Beware of chameleons – chameleons beware : the propriety of innovation as a concept for the coordination of novelty and change: insights from the Dutch outbound travel industry

Harald Buijtendijk

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Innovation is a taken-for-granted buzzword of modern society that is generally viewed as positive. The concept and its use in organisations have received limited scrutiny in the innovation literatures. This thesis therefore examines the propriety of innovation for the coordination of novelty and change. Using different theories premised on post-structuralist thought, it attempts to open up the concept of innovation. To this end, it examines an industry that has always been particularly prone to innovation and change: the Dutch travel industry. Drawing from three interrelated case studies conducted in this setting from 2016 to 2019, it examines the concept of innovation and its uses from up close. The first case study (The Machine) traces the development of a carbon management calculator for tour operators. This technology failed. Or did it not? The second case study (The Expert) examines how a PhD thesis on aviation-induced climate change impacted the Dutch aviation policy process and contributed to a new narrative on sustainable aviation in which technological innovation plays a prominent role. The third case study (The Firm) investigates the development of an innovation unit in a large, corporate tourism organisation (TUI) and illustrates how this unit ended up strengthening the organisational practices it set out to transform. The case studies present innovation as a collection of emergent, conflicting practices and communications that generate their own support and resistance. The thesis shows that innovation is highly political and sheds light on the paradox of innovation: attempts to create novelty can end up reinforcing the status quo. Promises of novel technologies can play a prominent role in this process.  The thesis draws attention to chameleons: actors that – like their reptilian equivalent – wittingly or unwittingly change colour to suit new dawns but remain their former shape. It concludes with directions that can help researchers and practitioners in better understanding and addressing these tricky creatures and questions if we should abandon the term innovation.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • van der Duim, Rene, Promotor
  • Duineveld, Martijn, Co-promotor
Award date10 Jun 2021
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789463957830
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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