Communicating tensions among incumbents about system innovation in the Dutch dairy sector

Anne Charlotte Hoes*, Pieter Jelle Beers, Barbara van Mierlo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates the ways in which innovating incumbents address and deal with tensions in their daily conversations in a case of an dairy initiative aiming for sector transformation. Analysis of meetings shows that innovating incumbents employ three strategies to address and deal with tensions such as concerns about the initiative's impact: voicing concerns, questioning as starting point and questioning as response. In these ways, they address tensions at the boundaries between representative and initiative and between representative and constituency. The assigned staff members of initiatives play a key role in opening up conversations on tensions. Tensions among innovating incumbents are avoided in the formal meetings, but are addressed in the frequent bilateral contacts. The research adds to the understanding of the roles of incumbents in a 'transformation pathway', by showing how innovating incumbents in interaction question which actions contribute to a sector transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Agriculture
  • Communication
  • Incumbent
  • Innovation
  • Sustainability
  • Tension


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