Embedding Social Innovation: Shaping Societal Norms and Behaviors Throughout the Innovation Process

Henrike Purtik, Daniel Arenas

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


New products and services that tackle grand societal challenges often require changes in societal norms, values, and expectations. This research investigates the question of how innovating actors shape these informal institutions throughout the innovation process by drawing on the literature on social innovation and institutional theory. In a comparison of four case studies, we observe that all innovating actors under study engage in a diverse set of practices to challenge and shape societal norms and expectations as well as user habits and routines throughout the innovation process. These activities can be clustered into unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral change processes, depending on the number of actors involved. Our findings highlight how different types of direct and indirect interactions between innovating actors and users along the innovation process shape the understanding of social innovation, and stress the central role of physical experiences and positive emotions among (future) users. Thereby, we provide for a more nuanced view of how companies that aim to bring technologies with different characteristics of innovativeness to the market shape the informal institutional environment throughout the different phases of the innovation process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-1002
Number of pages40
JournalBusiness and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • informal institutions
  • institutional change
  • social innovation
  • users


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