About Temporality

Recent debates in innovation research have foregrounded the idea of disruption, commonly defined as “fundamental changes that disturb or re-order the ways in which firms and their ecosystems operate” (Kumaraswamy, Garud & Ansari, 2018: 1025). Though often associated with the demise of individual incumbent organizations (Christensen, Raynow, & McDonald, 2015; Schumpeter, 1942/2010; Tripsas & Gavetti, 2000), disruption is pivotal for understanding innovation and society. In the wake of the climate crisis, deteriorating health conditions in many countries due to ongoing political conflicts, or blatant backlogs in educational systems, which were revealed during the Covid-19 pandemic, disruptive ideas are desperately needed (Grimes & Vogus, 2021; Zietsma, Ruebottom & Shantz, 2018). Disruptive innovation is thus not only central to organizational success and survival (Lengnick-Hall, 1992), but also to sustainable development on a global level (United Nations, 2022). It is therefore not surprising that research on disruptive innovation has mushroomed in the past decade with a focus on multiple perspectives and methods (Adner & Lieberman, 2021; Fraser & Ansari, 2021; Kumaraswamy et al., 2018).

Common to but often only implicit in research on disruptive innovation is the dimension of time. Disruption per definitionem implies breaking with the past to embark on new trajectories into the future (Ansari, Garud & Kumaraswamy, 2016). Hence, time is a key challenge for disruptive innovators who need to draw on past experiences to create newness, while balancing future uncertain outcomes with present needs (Dodgson, Gann & Phillips, 2014). Especially the recent conceptualization of innovation as an ongoing, nonlinear process with no clear ending or starting points that unfolds within and across organizational boundaries (Garud, Gehman, Kumaraswamy, & Tuertscher, 2016; Garud et al., 2013; Kumaraswamy et al., 2018) begs fundamental questions regarding topics such as timing, speed, or frequency (Ellwood & Horner, 2020). Yet, the notion of time has still received relatively little explicit attention in innovation research in general and disruptive innovation in particular (Augustine et al., 2019; Ellwood & Horner, 2020; Feuls et al., 2020; Hernes, Feddersen & Schultz 2021). By not making time an explicit dimension of our theorizing on disruptive innovation though, we create distortions “similar to those experienced when seeing the earth as a two-dimensional map” (Bansal et al., 2021). More specifically, we might miss pivotal aspects leading to the emergence, development, and dissemination of disruption (Ansari & Garud, 2009; Garud & Karunakaran, 2018; Kumaraswamy et al., 2018). In turn, backgrounding the temporal peculiarities of disruption also prevents us from solving the “super wicked problem[s]” that afflict today’s society, such as climate change (George, Howard- Grenville, Joshi & Tihanyi, 2016: 1886). Consequently, we suggest that the time is ripe to both synthesize the emerging and fragmented literature on time and disruptive innovation and to lay the ground for future research to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of disruption per se. Therefore, the network seeks to bring together scholars who work at the intersection of disruption and temporality research to foster dialogue across these academic discourses.

To consolidate knowledge and advance a temporal perspective on disruptive innovation, we build on three distinctive temporal lenses, namely (1) time-as-structure, (2) time-as-resource, and (3) time-as-process1. Such a differentiation is not only important for structuring our network meetings, but also for theoretical purposes. Proponents of each lens foreground different temporal concepts with different implications for research on disruptive innovation. By considering this diversity, we ensure to get a holistic overview of disruption and connect researchers from various research streams to foster innovative future endeavors. Thereby we pursue not only the comparison of different temporal lenses on disruption but also their combination.