Accessibility statement

Multiple framings and divergent responses: a cognitive account of incumbent responses to disruptive innovation

Picture of Shahzad Ansari

Monday 15 February 2016, 3.30PM to 5.00pm

Speaker(s): Professor Shahzad Ansari, Cambridge University


Research has shown that managerial cognition and cognitive frames play a prominent role in shaping organizational strategy under conditions of market uncertainty and ambiguity. While this work often has implications for understanding incumbent responses to disruptive innovation, relatively few attempts have been made to apply a cognitive lens directly to cases of disruptive innovation. Where a cognitive approach has been applied, it has often incorporated binary or dichotomous understandings of cognitive framing: often involving an opportunity/threat heuristic Recent work has begun to suggest that cognitive positions held by organizational members can incorporate multi-dimensional and non-binary cognitive frames. This paper explores the cognitive processes involved in incumbent organizations following the emergence of a disruptive innovation. We conduct an in-depth case study of the response of Aviva plc. to a disruptive innovation – the rise of general insurance aggregator sites between 2005 and 2007 –to develop a grounded model of the cognitive forces involved. We propose that, in response to the environmental ambiguity triggered by a disruptive innovation, organisational members develop different framing positions which can be mapped across three separate framing dimensions. Framing positions are distributed holographically throughout the organisation such that conflicting frames can be held by members of the same organisational department or group. The framing positions held by members influence organizational response strategies to disruptive innovations.


Shahzad Ansari is Professor of Strategy and Innovation, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and a Professorial Fellow of St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge. He has published in several leading academic journals including Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management ReviewStrategic Management JournalOrganization Science, Journal of Management StudiesStrategic Organization, Research PolicyIndustrial and Corporate Change and Organization Studies. He serves on the editorial boards of Academy of Management ReviewOrganization ScienceJournal of Management Studies and Organization Studies, and is a high performing member of the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He is also a consultant at Thinfilms Inc., a New Jersey firm providing thin film services (in particular coating services) to over 150 corporations in the hybrid microelectronics, semiconductor, optical, medical and sensor industries.

Professor Ansari's areas of expertise in executive education include strategic management, technological and business model innovation, social innovation, and corporate social responsibility. He has contributed to executive education programs in many organisations, including McKinsey, Airbus. Shell, British Telecom, China Development Bank, Nokia, Laing O'Rourke, UNICEF, Essex County Council, City & Guilds, KLEC (Kuala Lumpur Education City), Shanghai University of Finance and Education among several others. He is frequently invited to speak on issues related to strategy, innovation and social change.

Location: LMB/102b