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Discrete Innovation, Continuous Improvement, and Competitive Pressure

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  • Ghosh, Arghya

    ()
    (University of New South Wales)

  • Kato, Takao

    ()
    (Colgate University)

  • Morita, Hodaka

    ()
    (University of New South Wales)

Abstract

Does competitive pressure foster innovation? In addressing this important question, prior studies ignored a distinction between discrete innovation aiming at entirely new technology and continuous improvement consisting of numerous incremental improvements and modifications made upon the existing technology. This paper shows that distinguishing between these two types of innovation will lead to a much richer understanding of the interplay between firms’ incentives to innovate and competitive pressure. In particular, our model predicts that, in contrast to previous theoretical findings, an increase in competitive pressure measured by product substitutability may decrease firms’ incentives to conduct continuous improvement, and that an increase in the size of discrete innovation may decrease firms’ incentives to conduct continuous improvement. A unique feature of this paper is its exploration of the model’s real-world relevance and usefulness through field research. Motivated by recent declines in levels of continuous improvement in Japanese manufacturing, we conducted extensive field research at two Japanese manufacturing firms. After presenting our findings, we demonstrate that our model guides us to focus on several key changes taking place at these two firms; discover their interconnectedness; and finally ascertain powerful underlying forces behind each firm’s decision to weaken its investment in traditional continuous improvement activities.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3132.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3132

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Keywords: competitive pressure; continuous improvement; discrete innovation; field research; location model; product substitutability; small group activities; technical progress;

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References

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  1. Ted O'Donoghue, 1997. "A Patentability Requirement For Sequential Innovation," Discussion Papers 1185, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  2. Vives, Xavier, 2005. "Innovation and Competitive Pressure," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt1s1059vr, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. Stephen Redding, 2002. "Path dependence, endogenous innovation, and growth," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 208, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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  7. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1992. "A Model of Growth through Creative Destruction," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 323-51, March.
  8. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1996. " Research and Development in the Growth Process," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 49-73, March.
  9. Spence, Michael, 1984. "Cost Reduction, Competition, and Industry Performance," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 101-21, January.
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  14. Jan Boone, 2000. "Competitive Pressure: The Effects on Investments in Product and Process Innovation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 31(3), pages 549-569, Autumn.
  15. Reinganum, Jennifer F., 1989. "The timing of innovation: Research, development, and diffusion," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 849-908 Elsevier.
  16. Dasgupta, Partha & Stiglitz, Joseph, 1980. "Industrial Structure and the Nature of Innovative Activity," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(358), pages 266-93, June.
  17. Tandon, Pankaj, 1984. "Innovation, Market Structure, and Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 394-403, June.
  18. Blundell, Richard & Griffith, Rachel & van Reenen, John, 1999. "Market Share, Market Value and Innovation in a Panel of British Manufacturing Firms," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(3), pages 529-54, July.
  19. Dosi, Giovanni, 1988. "Sources, Procedures, and Microeconomic Effects of Innovation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1120-71, September.
  20. Simon Kuznets, 1962. "Inventive Activity: Problems of Definition and Measurement," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 19-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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