Making sense of heterogeneous innovative social action: co-constructing the past and imagining the future

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Currently, countries, organizations and individual actors are increasingly pushed towards an ‘innovation imperative’ that presents innovation as an unequivocal promoter of multi-level success. However, it remains to be addressed whether innovation actors have homogenously incorporated this narrative, or rather, attribute divergent meanings to previous innovative social action. Inspired by critical innovation studies and sensemaking research, this paper addresses whether specific contextual aspects translate into heterogeneous sensemaking processes, and shape actors’ expectations for the future. For this purpose, focusing on the Information and Communication Technology sector and having the organizational unit as the level of analysis, it addresses top managers’ discourses through their perceptions on past innovation. Cluster analysis identified two profiles, mostly discriminated by actors’ perceptions of their firms’ role in previous innovation. These profiles were associated with innovation performance with firms with more outputs presenting themselves as the ‘builders of their success’, while the ones with less successful trajectories expressing their powerlessness. Logistic regression analysis revealed that such discourses mediate the impact of firms’ empowerment culture and assets on confidence in the future. This study adds to previous literature a first comparative analysis of heterogeneous sensemaking discourses through which actors contextualize previous innovative social action and co-construct futures’ expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-452
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Review Of Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Confidence
  • Contexts
  • Expectations
  • Innovation
  • Sensemaking
  • Social action


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