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Introduction.............................................................................................. 1 Summary of the Article..............................................................................2 Critical Comments about the Article............................................................3 Conclusion and Discussion..........................................................................6 References................................................................................................ 8

Introduction Organizational change is inevitable in any organization and is important for overall strategy for success. Organization goes through various life cycles, just like people and for organizations to develop; they must often undergo significant change at various points in their development (McNamara, 1997). However, change is not something that is readily accepted by the people in the organization. According to Recklies (2001), change is the continuous adoption of corporate adoption of corporate strategies and structures to changing external conditions. Change management means to plan, initiate, realize, control and finally stabilize change process on both, corporate and personal level. Innovation is a new way of doing something. It refers to incremental and emergent or radical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes or organizations (Davila et al, 2006). Valikangas et al (2009) stressed that continuous innovation is important to ensure competitiveness of organizations. This assignment is a critical review of a journal article on organizational change, specifically focusing on innovation management. The critical review of this article is based on the critical article review method proposed by University of Alberta (2001) and the University of New South Wales (2004). A critical review of a journal article is an evaluation of an articles strengths, weakness and validity. It is used to inform readers of an articles value through explanation, interpretation and analysis (University of Alberta, 2001). The article is published by European Management Journal, written by three authors, Liisa Valikangas, Martin Hoegl and Michael Gibbert (2009). The title of the article is Why learning from failure isnt easy (and what to do about it): Innovation trauma at Sun Microsystems. Valikangas is a professor of Innovation Management at Helsinki School of Economics, Finland, whereas Hoegl holds the Chair of Leadership and Human Resource Management at


WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, Burgplatz, Germany. Gibbert is an Associate Professor at Bocconi University, Italy. The article focused primarily on innovation management in

organizations, stressing particularly on innovation failure and its incapability of providing learning effectively as it should be, drawn from the famed proverb that we learn more from mistakes (failures) rather than success. The authors of the article argued that previous innovation failures can lead to innovation trauma, a term that originated from a psychological perspective to that of an organizational change context, which departs from the original understanding that failures are valued learning. In the case of innovation trauma, previous innovation failure can lead to further failure in innovation rather than success. The research conducted by Valikangas and associates (2009) in this article presents a fresh yet arguably convincing outlook on innovation failures and their consequent effect on future innovation undertakings. In their research finding presentations, there seemed to be some truth about this issue, but as they have admitted in their introduction section, previous literatures have concentrated researches and studies on different aspects of innovation management and organizational change but the antecedents and consequences of innovation failures have not been extensively researched. Therefore, in my opinion, this article presents a strong argument about innovation failure and the impact of innovation trauma but further studies are necessary to substantiate their findings.

Summary of the Article The article is a case study using Sun Microsystems as the organization of study and their innovation in product called Sun Ray, which is a thin-client computing innovation produced by their Sun Labs. Sun Ray was closely associated with a previous product, JavaStation which was an innovation that failed and this failure was highly publicized. The failure of JavaStation has lead to innovation trauma which greatly affected the success of Sun Ray. Thus, this article focused on the importance of overcoming innovation trauma as the


researchers believed that this is an underappreciated aspect of innovation management in companies. Continuous innovation is important to ensure competitiveness of companies such as Sun Microsystems. Specifically, this study focused on the role emotions play in innovation failure and to the need for managers to mediate such potentially traumatic experience in order to sustain innovation after serious failures.

Critical Comments about the Article The article is organized in a systematic manner, starting with a brief introduction, then the research methodology and followed by the case study on how innovation trauma came about at Sun Microsystems. Lastly, the discussion section draws on the organizational learning, innovation and the team literatures to suggest strategies for treating trauma. The methodical presentation of information in this article is clear, easy to follow and provides a lot of insight about innovation trauma and its roles in innovation failures. The Introduction section presents arguments about the importance of innovation, failures and reasons for failures in innovation, and also the usual scopes of interest on innovation and innovation failure in past researches. The authors stressed in this section that the proverb we learned more from failure than success, seemed not true all the time in the case of innovations in organizations. They also defined the meaning of innovation trauma, first by providing its definition from the medical and psychological perspective and then to relate the terms to organizational context. According to Valikangas et al (2009), innovation trauma is the inability to commit to a new innovation due to severe disappointment from previous innovation failures. Thus, rather than learning from failure and using such knowledge in subsequent projects, as normally is the practice, innovation trauma inhibits the personal and emotional investment necessary to achieve high innovation performance.


By presenting the psychological definition of individual trauma and development of the definition of innovation trauma in the organizational context, the authors were able to give a strong conceptual definition to the term innovation trauma and gives a clear understanding on what is means in relation to the case study presented. In this section, Valikangas et al (2009) further presents the rationale and importance of their study, which mainly stemmed from the lack of study or focus on innovation trauma, its antecedents and consequences although there are substantial amount of literature on change management, innovation management and innovation failures and its relationship with learning and future performance. Two research questions were posed after the lengthy description and rationale of innovation trauma study which are: (a) what does it take to learn more from our failure rather than letting them drag down subsequent innovation endeavors?; and (b) How can innovation trauma be treated so as to enable organizations to learn from, or at least, overcome inevitable failures? The authors clearly explained how these two research questions are to be answered in their case study and article report. The research questions which were stated after reasoning the need for focus on innovation trauma, the detachment from the usual norm that we learn from failure rather than success acclamation, and the importance of learning from failure provided a strong argument to the significance of this research. The authors explained explicitly about the research methodology, first by describing the sampling method, then the data collection and data analysis. These explanations presented the validity and reliability of the findings of the study. Since most of the information was gathered from opinions, comparison with facts derived from various documents, cross-checking with multiple interviews with the same respondents and determining that the key people involved in the Sun Ray innovation project indicated the reliability and validity of the findings. Avoidance of bias in analyzing the data were also discretely explained which further heighten the reliability and validity of findings.


The next three sections in the article described the outcome of the case study, which presented the innovation trauma at Sun Microsystems, the emergence of post-traumatic disorders and the early warning signals. In presenting the innovation trauma, the authors used a process-based approach starting from the emergence of post-traumatic disorders, early warning signals of trauma that were missed at Sun. The authors presented a clear picture on the relationship between the failure of JavaStation and the subsequent failure to market Sun Ray. Explanation regarding the potentials of Sun Ray as an innovative product; the failure of JavaStation as an engineering disaster, and the subsequent disorders caused by JavaStations failure to the failed market launch of Sun Ray presented a clear picture of the emergence of innovation trauma at Sun and its consequences to Sun Ray product. The authors also stated three missed early warning signals for innovation trauma with Sun Ray which is: (a) Trauma breeds disillusionment; (b) Trauma causes cynicism; and (c) Demotivation is contagious. In presenting these signals, Valikangas and associates (2009) stated that innovation has always been associated with failure and this is a traumatic experience for entrepreneurs. They also noted that the failed JavaStation had created a team who were embarrassed on their undelivered promise and the Sales people losing their credibility with their clients. Also, the JavaStation team who experienced failure was demotivated and their low morale affected the Sun Ray team. The presentation of these early warning signals showed that Valikangas and associates (2009) explored the incidence of innovation trauma at Sun Microsystems at length and clearly indicated their understanding of the issues. Thus, their recommendations on treating innovation trauma stemmed from their in-depth knowledge about the innovation trauma at Sun. Valikangas et al (2009) presented five strategies to treat innovation trauma which are: (a) Provision of time and opportunity for those involved in


innovation failure to disengage from past experiences; (b) Organizing postmortem workshops on the underlying causes to help create a common understanding of the course of events that led to failure so individual rationalization of what happened and why can occur; (c) Do a collaborative case writing to maximize learning from failure; (d) Manage the excitement for a new project to ensure ambitious goals are avoided; and (e) More stability in the management structure to ensure sense of being in control to the team. The strategies presented by Valikangas et al (2009) are well-proven strategies to combat crises and change in organization, which are frequently prescribed in organizational behaviour books (Robbins and Judge, 2008).

Conclusion and Discussion Valikangas et al (2009) presented a very insightful piece of information regarding innovation trauma through this article whereby they explained at length, the events or situation that causes trauma that led to the failure of Sun Ray market launch. Although, the team of researchers presented a clear explanation of innovation trauma, used a highly reliable and valid research methodology, and presented the case in a clear and concise manner, I have doubts that innovation trauma was the main cause of Sun Rays failure. With due respect, the presentation of the case study showed clearly that the failure of JavaStation had resulted in disorder or change in the organization in the form of various events such as (a) cancellation of JavaStation production (b) laying off people (c) deployment of the JavaStation team to Sun Ray team resulting in reorganization of Sun Rays team (d) changes in sponsorship; and (e) restructuring of Sun Rays team. Valikangas and associates (2009) suggested that these disorders have caused emotional conflicts in both team the JavaStation and the Sun Ray team but have led to innovation trauma. JavaStation failed because of engineering faults whereas Sun Ray failed in its market launch. The Sales people lost their credibility with their clients due to the failed JavaStation, thus the consequence was, inability to reach the target sales in the first and subsequent years.


There are some truths in the findings presented by Valikangas and associates although blaming the failure of JavaStation as the reason behind the failure of Sun Ray is highly arguable. This is because; there are other factors, as indicated in the article itself that may have contributed to the failure of Sun Ray. For example, exogenous factors such as the competitiveness of rival companies such as Microsoft and Intel and indigenous factors such as managements competencies to manage change may have contributed largely to the failure of Sun Ray. Nonetheless, this article presented a good argument to consider innovation trauma or the impact of previous failures to future undertakings. It also highlighted the need for management to give more emphasis on effectively managing change caused by failed innovation with some focus on the emotional perspective of the effect of such failure.


References Davilla, T., Epstein, M. J. and Shelton, R. (2006). Making Innovation Work: How to Manage It, Measure It, and Profit from It . Upper Saddle: Wharton School Publishing McNamara, C. (1997). Organizational Change and Development , internet article downloaded on September 20, 2009 from: http://managementhelp.org/org_chng/org_chng.htm#anchor515854 Recklies, O. (2001). Managing Change Definition and Phases in Change Processes, internet article downloaded on September 20, 2009 from: http://www.themanager.org/strategy/change_phases.htm Robbins, S. and Judge, T. (2008). Organizational Behaviours, International Version, 13th Edition, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall The University of New South Wales (2004). Writing a Critical Review, Sydney: UNSW Learning Centre University of Alberta (2001). Critical Review of Journal Articles, Herbert T. Coutts Education and Physical Library, downloaded on September 20, 2009 from: http://www.library.ualberta.ca/guides/criticalreviews/index.cfm Valikangas, L., Hoegl, M. and Gibbert, M. (2009). Why learning from failure isnt easy (and what to do about it): Innovation trauma at Sun Microsystems, European Management Journal, 27, 225-233