Competence-expanding innovation

Bergek et al, (2013), in their excellent article on creative accumulation, note that

“However, creative accumulation cannot be described as competence-enhancing in the Tushman and Anderson (1986) sense, since it forces incumbent to go outside their existing knowledge base and search for new competences. Geels (2006) calls this specific type of cumulative innovation process “competence-expanding”,  using it to explain why incumbents in the sewage system regime were able to adjust and reorient themselves:

“[E]xisting knowledge about bricks, pipes, water flows and pumps remained relevant. Additional knowledge had to be developed about how different components were best combined, about costs and benefits of combined or separate sewers, the shape of sewer pipes, material choice, sewer slopes, flow speeds, and soil conditions. But this knowledge had an add-on character, and could be learned by incumbent actors.” (Geels, 2006, p. 1078)”

(Bergek et al. 2013: 1221)

The Geels citation is – Geels, F.W., 2006. The hygienic transition from cesspools to sewer systems (1840–1930): the dynamics of regime transformation. Research Policy 35, 1069–1082.

Bergek, A. Bergren, C., Magnusson, T and Hoday, M. 2013 Technological discontinuities and the challenge for incumbent firms: Destruction, disruption or creative accumulation? Research Policy 42 1210–1224.

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