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Articles (2017), Organization Studies, 38 (5), pp. 597-618

The Paradox of Controversial Innovation: Insights From the Rise of Impressionism


This article considers the strategies developed by a coalition of innovators and supporters to contribute to the consecration of a controversial innovation that transgresses the established codes. It does so through the analysis of Impressionism (1874–1900) that provoked a dramatic shift from classical to modern art. The case study suggests that such consecration can be achieved while claiming the distinctiveness of the controversial innovation, instead of toning it down. The findings reveal the importance of distributed strategies developed by loosely coordinated coalition members. More specifically, they point to simultaneous, and potentially contradictory, strategies: strategies aimed to enforce the distinctiveness of this controversial innovation, and strategies aimed to extend support for it, insisting that contradictory tensions between those strategies can prove useful in achieving consecration. Overall, the article contributes to research on the consecration of controversial innovations, as well as to the literature on framing and brokerage.

DELACOUR, H. and LECA, B. (2017). The Paradox of Controversial Innovation: Insights From the Rise of Impressionism. Organization Studies, 38(5), pp. 597-618.