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Shifting logics of legitimation in the diffusion of complex innovations


  • Stéphane Guérard
  • Ann Langley


Legitimation and competition are two major forces moulding organizational field and the diffusion of innovations. While discursive legitimation provides "rational justifications" for innovations, competition may incite organizations to acquire effective innovations preemptively. This paper draws on a case study of the legitimation and diffusion of a sophisticated medical technology to suggest that, in highly regulated environments, these two forces may interact, and that opposing legitimation strategies may be associated with competition. We argue that while convergent discursive legitimation strategies tend to speed up the diffusion process, divergent discursive legitimation strategies may have the opposite effect. The case suggests that the dominant logics of legitimation may shift, oscillating between convergence and divergence as an innovation diffuses. We also show how the resulting delays in diffusion may be pre-empted by a phenomenon we call institutional delinquency, that is when the moral and cognitive-cultural legitimacies of the technology among professionals and managers becomes sufficient to counteract regulatory forces.

Suggested Citation

  • Stéphane Guérard & Ann Langley, 2007. "Shifting logics of legitimation in the diffusion of complex innovations," Working Papers 0703, University of Lausanne, Institute of Health Economics and Management (IEMS).
  • Handle: RePEc:hem:wpaper:0703

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cohen, Wesley M. & Levin, Richard C., 1989. "Empirical studies of innovation and market structure," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 18, pages 1059-1107 Elsevier.
    2. Gelijns, Annetine C. & Mark Fendrick, A., 1993. "The dynamics of innovation in minimally invasive therapy," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 153-166, January.
    3. Geroski, P. A., 2000. "Models of technology diffusion," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4-5), pages 603-625, April.
    4. Dranove, David & Satterthwaite, Mark A., 2000. "The industrial organization of health care markets," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 20, pages 1093-1139 Elsevier.
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    1. repec:wsi:ijimxx:v:19:y:2015:i:04:n:s1363919615500371 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    technology; legitimation; institution; innovation; PET scanner; theorization; competition;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D

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