Being lean: Conceptualizing and operationalizing the Lean Innovation Capability (LIC) of innovative companies

William H.A. Johnson, Pelin Bicen, Zhen Zhu

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This paper describes two studies examining factors associated with successful lean innovation with an aim to develop a capability construct that differentiates between lean and non-lean innovators. In the first study, we use a grounded approach to discover a four-dimension construct called Lean Innovation Capability (LIC). In the second study, we utilized Delphi techniques and surveyed 340 senior managers to further modify, operationalize, and deductively verify the existence and relevance of the LIC construct in a firm's internal and external resource contexts. LIC's nomological validity is significantly supported in a three-way interaction effect with environmental munificence, demonstrating firms with higher levels of LIC successfully innovate with less resources in munificent environments. Thus, we verify the importance and viability of LIC for managing successful lean innovation, albeit with three subdimensions—market-product fit, mission-oriented leadership, and network learning capabilities. The fourth initial subdimension, experimentation culture, was not confirmed in our empirical test suggesting that experimentation may be an important and perhaps necessary component of innovation, but not a characteristic of lean innovation itself. We discuss the contributions of these studies and implications for future research and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102794
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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