Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology
Using the case study method, the purpose of the study was to determine how principles underpin the processes used by successful innovation leaders in South African companies, and in so doing to develop a model that describes the common actions that innovation leaders use to successfully commercialise innovations in South African companies. This chapter describes the research design in section 3.1 and the way in which the case study methodology is applied in section 3.2. The limitations of the study are discussed in section 3.3, and the ethical procedures followed are explained in section 3.4.
This study used the constructivist research paradigm to investigate and explain how principles are used by successful South African innovation leaders in their place of work. The ontology of this paradigm provides for multiple subjective realities constructed through human interaction, which in this study are the innovation leaders (Archer 2016). The epistemology that was used to uncover the truth was to understand common actions of innovation leaders across multiple cases using the principles presented in the conceptual framework, and to understand the influences of the social context (Archer 2016).
Based on the initial formulation of a research problem captured in the research question, problem and thesis statements, the logic of formulating a research design for this study adhered to Babbie and Mouton’s (2007) logic of scientific inquiry for empirical social research. First and foremost the research question was posed as an empirical question which implied that the research question intended to answer a “real-life” problem as opposed to non-empirical questions which focus on theoretical and or abstract constructs (Babbie and Mouton 2007). The research question for this study was explanatory in nature and relied on the collection of primary data from the unit of analysis “Successful Innovation Leaders”. This “Primary Data Design” (Babbie and Mouton 2007: 76) gave the researcher some control over the primary data collected which required the researcher to put in place measures to ensure that an acceptable level of objectivity was maintained. These measures are discussed in detail in sub section 3.2.6. Finally the type of data that was required for this research design was text based data transcribed from semi-structured interviews with the unit of analysis “Successful Innovation Leaders”.
The principles of research design classification described by Babbie and Mouton (2007) were presented as follows:
• Empirical study (explanatory real-life questions)
• Using primary data (semi-structured interviews with successful innovation leaders)
• Textural data (to be analysed with Computer-aided Qualitative Data Analysis Software tools)
This research design classification was used to determine what research methodologies could have been successfully applied to achieve the evidence required to adequately answer the research question posed at the start of the study. In terms of research methodology this study considered using three distinct methodologies based on the classification of the research design that was developed for this study.
The methodologies considered were:
• Participatory action research
• Case study
The survey methodology is tried and trusted method of qualitative scientific enquiry that could have been used in this study to get primary data from innovation leaders throughout South Africa. The strength of this method is the ability to collect a representative sample of data from innovation leaders allowing the results to be generalised. However, collecting a representative sample implied that the survey would need to be completed independently by participants without the researcher being able to directly interview each participant as the cost and time required for face to face interviews with a representative sample would have been prohibitive.
The participatory action research methodology was considered as it ensured that the researcher would be directly involved as an active participant in a selected company’s innovation projects and processes working hand in hand with the company’s innovation leader. The advantage of this method would be the great depth of understanding that could be achieved by the data collected. However, gaining this level of access to the inner workings of a company’s innovation process was considered to be a significant challenge. Furthermore the duration of innovation projects are difficult to determine with many projects spanning months or even years in some cases. This potentially lengthy time duration implied that the researcher would have to take a lengthy sabbatical from his current employment and responsibilities to effectively pursue the participatory action research methodology.
The case study research methodology was considered as it gave face to face access to innovation leaders at multiple companies. The researcher could conduct face to face semi structured interviews where the innovation leader concerned could recount how they conducted innovation projects that had already been successfully launched into their industry. The strengths of this method were that the data collected originated from projects that were commercially successful which was a key driver of the research. Secondly, as the projects were already completed collecting the data from interviews with the innovation leaders could be achieved in a relatively short time period. The fact that data collection could occur quickly made it easier to collect data from multiple cases to strengthen the value of the research project. Due to the clear advantages of the case study method to collect relevant data posed by the research questions in an easy and timeous manner resulted in this method being chosen over the two other methods considered by this research project.
A multiple case study methodological approach was used to gain insight into and understanding of innovation leaders within their business context. The case study method was chosen as this method is commonly used to gain in-depth understanding and answer “how” type research questions.
Selection of participants
The data collected from this multiple case study were intended to identify innovative leaders working at established companies who had successfully launched innovations into their marketplace. The unit of analysis in this study was the innovation leaders themselves, and how they specifically contributed to successful innovation projects in their company. In order to identify successful innovations and the innovation leaders directly involved in these projects, the following process was used: the researcher created a list of 30 South African companies that had been recognised in awards schemes for innovations that they had successfully introduced to the market. The researcher contacted each company telephonically to establish contact with the innovation leaders at these companies.
The initial target was to attempt to conduct at least five case studies. From the initial list of 30 companies, the recognised innovation leaders at 12 companies expressed their willingness to participate. Each of the 12 potential participants was sent a set of detailed documents explaining the criteria for participation in the case study and the expectations of participants (see Appendix 3 for details of the participant information sheet and participant consent form). The criteria for participation specifically requested that the innovation leader to be interviewed must account for how he or she put into practice the principles of innovation leadership raised in the research question. Each innovation leader was required to obtain consent from their company to participate and to complete the participant consent form. Of the 12 innovation leaders who initially expressed an interest in participating, eight completed the company and individual consent forms in order to participate. The interview with each of the innovation leaders confirmed that they had led the innovation initiative/s under discussion and that they were responsible for executing the principles in the research question. In summary, eight set of participants and their companies completed the consent documentation. One case study was used as the pilot study leaving seven case studies to make up the data collected for the main study.
In order to gain a deeper understanding of how South African innovation leaders execute the innovation leadership principles, this research made use of the multiple-case study method. The case study method was chosen because it provides a scientifically valid method for observing successful South African innovation leaders from within their business context. The multiple case study allowed the researcher to observe multiple innovation leaders and gather data on how each innovation leader applied the principles to his or her company’s successful innovation projects. Collecting data from multiple cases allowed the researcher to identify common and unique practices that explain how innovation leaders organise, plan, select teams, conduct experiments, engage with the external constructs of technology, market requirements and resource networks while maintaining a positive working relationship within their own firm. The intention in collecting and analysing this data was to:
• Confirm or dispute whether the principles identified by the conceptual framework are relevant to the South African innovation leadership context.
• Determine how each of these principles contributes to the innovation leaders’ efforts to move innovation projects forward in a successful manner.
Confirming the relevance of these principles and understanding how they contribute to local innovation leadership was intended to culminate in a number of feasible recommendations. The implementation of these recommendations helped address the need for competent local innovation leaders who were capable of instilling innovation as a normal course of thinking and acting in their place of business, thereby having a positive impact on innovation in South African companies. The recommendations from this multiple case study research were encapsulated in an innovation leadership model that South African innovation leaders could apply within their companies to advocate and execute innovation initiatives.
The case study method was chosen, as this allows for the study of the innovation leadership phenomenon in the real-world context of South African businesses (Yin 2014). The case study method does not require the control of behavioural actions and focuses on observing contemporary phenomena; in this case, innovation leadership as it unfolds in the business context (Yin 2014).
This research project specifically makes use of a holistic multi-case design, which implies that the unit of analysis is applied to more than one case. Holistic multiple case studies use replication logic to determine whether the cases under investigation provide similar repeatable results (Yin 2014). This logic provides the basis for making an analytical generalisation from the multiple case studies (Yin 2014). Analytical generalisation, as described by Yin (2014), differs from statistical generalisation as it does not entail generalisation to the population, but instead refers to the analytical replications that occur within the multiple case studies themselves. Analytical generalisation refers to the repeatable matching patterns that are observed across the cases under study. The analytical generalisation in this study was to uncover the repeatable actions of the innovation leaders that contributed to understanding how the principles and resulting processes were applied in the South African context.
Chapter 1: Introduction
1.2 Research problem
1.3 Research questions
1.4 Research purpose
1.5 Delineation and limitations
1.7 Research objective
1.9 Clarification of key terms
1.10 Overview of chapters
Chapter 2: Literature review
2.1 Theoretical basis of innovation
2.2 Innovation in business
2.3 Innovation in South Africa
2.4 Existing models of innovation leadership
2.5 Innovation process of individuals
2.6 Conceptual framework
Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology
3.1 Research design
3.4 Ethical procedures
Chapter 4: Presentation and analysis of data
4.0 Brief introduction to the seven case studies
4.1 Research Question One
4.2 Research Question Two
4.3 Research Question Three
4.4 Research Question Four
4.5 Research Question Five
4.6 Research Question Six
4.7 Research Question Seven
4.8 Research Question Eight
4.9 Research Question Nine
4.10 Cross-case analysis of Research Question One
4.11 Cross-case analysis of Research Question Two
4.12 Cross-case analysis of Research Question Three
4.13 Cross-case analysis of Research Question Four
4.14 Cross-case analysis of Research Question Five
4.15 Cross-case analysis of Research Question Six
4.16 Cross-case analysis of Research Question Seven
4.17 Cross-case analysis of Research Question Eight
4.18 Cross-case analysis of Research Question Nine
4.19 Summary of data analysis
Chapter 5: Discussion and interpretation of data
5.2 Market requirements
5.3 Resource networks
5.4 Integration through experimentation
5.5 Organisational structure
5.7 Team composition
5.8 Positive relationship between ongoing operations and innovation initiatives
5.9 Summary of data interpretation
Chapter 6: Conclusions
6.2 Summary of contributions
6.3 Recommendations for further research
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