Paul Frederic Sela

Navigating Complex Tensions between Incumbents and their Digital Ventures: A Longitudinal Case Study

Tuesday, 5. December 2023 - 12:30 to 13:15, Zoom

Speaker: Sara Schiffer

Abstract: In the quest to foster digital innovations, incumbents are exploring various avenues. One notably prevalent approach involves outsourcing these activities to digital ventures. However, this approach introduces a unique set of tensions, including those between autonomy and control, the pursuit of digital experimentation and profitability, and the balance of exploration and exploitation. Prior research tends to examine these tensions in isolation, resulting in a fragmented understanding. Employing the theoretical framework of paradoxical equilibrium, this study seeks to identify these tensions and analyze their development over time. The research leverages the case of a large German insurance company and its digital venture, collecting data through multiple interviews spanning a seven-year period. The research identifies four core tensions, with one serving as the genesis, triggering a cascade of new tensions. It is noteworthy that while these tensions may manifest within organizational structures, they predominantly stem from personal conflicts. Therefore, we propose integrating conflict theory as an additional layer to enhance our understanding of these tensions and their evolution. This comprehensive exploration illuminates the nuanced intricacies of digital innovation, providing invaluable insights to guide leaders in their endeavors.

Short Bio: Sara Schiffer (sara.schiffer@devk.de) is managing director of HyLane GmbH, part of the DEVK Group, and advisor to a member of DEVK’s executive board. Since joining DEVK in 2013 she has performed various roles in the company’s digital transformation activities. Sara has a master’s degree in Information Systems Management from the University of Münster, where she is currently an external Ph.D. candidate. Her current research focuses on digital innovation in incumbent firms.