Join us for MIOIR External Seminar Series 19/20, seminar hosted by Dr Beatrice D'Ippolito.
The emergence of a group of powerful digital technologies (DTs) has transformed innovation and competition, leading to important questions on the strategies of firms, on the nature and extent of inter-organisational collaboration, technological choices, and governance processes. Digitalisation not only enables the combination of content and distribution, but also brings changes to the nature of industries. The two fundamental properties of DTs, convergence and generativity of digitalisation, raise the question: how do firms think about and develop new products through new capabilities or organisational forms? While new entrants may be in the position of starting afresh in a digitalised world as well as designing a strategy and committing resources accordingly, the strategic response of incumbents to digitalisation requires a more thorough investigation, for instance, in relation to whether and how they reconsider their technological choices, deploy new capabilities, or develop new innovation partnerships, adapting their governance processes.
These questions are all the more pressing in the case of hybrid incumbent organisations. Hybrids bridge the conventional categories of private, public, and non-profit sectors (Battilana and Lee, 2015; Billis, 2010; Lavie, 2006; Seibel, 2015), to encompass organisations that are exposed to more than one logic and, for this, be experiencing tensions deriving from having to fulfil the needs and expectations of different sets of stakeholders. In this case, consideration of their technological choices, innovation partnerships, or governance structures are to be considered not only in terms of commercial logic (i.e., income generation from commercial activities such as sales or contract fees) but also their mission and obligation towards society (Davies and Doherty, 2018).
We further this research agenda by examining the response of the BBC – the UK's largest public broadcaster, by relying on primary and secondary data collected in 2015-2019. Our findings reveal how hybridity acts as a tightrope along which BBC manages digitalisation, and hybridity offers both constraints and opportunities for innovation. On the one hand, the Producer choice/Royal Charter bears an antagonistic value which forces the organisation to produce efficiencies in order to introduce creativity. The need to abide by an editorial logic that guarantees high-quality storytelling and that is at the same time representative, inclusive, and transparent, has given the BBC the opportunity to turn a potentially constraining asset into source of value and innovation. The specificity of the case illustrates how the hybridity brings with it some tensions that may jeopardise the so acclaimed positives of DTs, an aspect which we contend future research effort may address.