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Innovation is a key priority in the success of many companies, because engaging in innovation enables firms to develop competitive advantages (Porter, 1990) and contributes to their longevity (Schumpeter, 1911). The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the key role of the family in enabling family firms to thrive through adversity, as it is important for family members to work together if they are to provide their business with the resources and capacities needed to maintain their competitiveness in difficult times. It was evident that family priorities drove innovation decisions in family businesses affected by the repeated lockdowns and regulatory changes which necessitated the internal transformation of family firms (National Observatory of Family Entrepreneurship, 2021). We characterise innovation as ‘the creation of value by using relevant knowledge and resources for conversion of an idea into a new product, process or practice or improvements in an existing product, process or practice’ (Varadarajan, 2018: 154). This paper focuses on innovation in family businesses, motivated by prior contradictory results regarding their ability to innovate (Kellermanns, Eddleston, Sarathy and Murphy, 2012). Following Chua, Chrisman and Sharma (1999: 25), we define family firms as businesses ‘governed and/or managed with the intention to shape and pursue the vision of the business held by a dominant coalition controlled by members of the same family or a small number of families in a manner that is potentially sustainable across generations of the family or families’…


This paper investigates the role of family priorities in family business innovation. We define a family business based on family ownership and family involvement in management by specifically focusing on firms transmitted to descendants of the founder. Drawing on two French longitudinal case studies of innovative family firms in the automotive industry, we show that family continuity, command, connection, and community priorities guide which resources are mobilised, when, and for which innovation purposes. We reveal the role of family priorities in family firms’ resource (re)configuration over time, leading to innovative outputs such as new products, processes, practices, or improvements. We contribute to the innovation literature in family business by extending the model of family priorities to introduce a new, innovative posture at the crossroads of the ‘innovator’ and the ‘craftsman’.

  • innovation
  • family business
  • family priorities
  • resource configuration
  • typology
  • innovator
  • craftsman

Cet article étudie le rôle des priorités familiales dans l’innovation des entreprises familiales. Nous définissons l’entreprise familiale sur la base de l’actionnariat familial et de l’implication familiale dans la gestion, en nous concentrant spécifiquement sur les entreprises qui ont été transmises aux descendants du fondateur. En nous appuyant sur deux études de cas longitudinales françaises d’entreprises familiales innovantes dans l’industrie automobile, nous montrons que la continuité familiale, le commandement, la connexion et les priorités communautaires guident quelles ressources sont mobilisées, quand et pour quelles finalités d’innovation. Nous révélons le rôle des priorités familiales dans la (re)configuration des ressources des entreprises familiales au fil du temps conduisant à des résultats innovants tels que de nouveaux produits, processus, pratiques ou améliorations. Nous contribuons à la littérature sur l’innovation dans les entreprises familiales en étendant le modèle des priorités familiales pour introduire une nouvelle posture innovante à la croisée de « l’innovateur » et de « l’artisan ».

  • innovation
  • entreprise familiale
  • priorités familiales
  • configuration de ressources
  • typologie
  • innovateur
  • artisan
Marine Gouëdard
Assistant professor of Strategy
ESSCA School of Management
Miruna Radu-Lefebvre
Professor of Entrepreneurship
AUDENCIA Business School
8 Route de la Jonelière, 44312 Nantes, France
Natalia Vershinina
Professor of Entrepreneurship
AUDENCIA Business School
8 Route de la Jonelière, 44312 Nantes, France
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
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