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Understanding innovation in practice: a discussion of the production and re-production of Nordic Walking

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2010
JournalTechnology Analysis and Strategic Management
Number of pages15
Original languageEnglish


Building on the work of those who have highlighted the role of consumers and lead users we focus on innovations not in products but in what people do. In developing a method of conceptualising the emergence and reproduction of practice we argue that innovation is not a one-off moment but a continuous on-going process. Specifically, we suggest that innovations in practice involve changing combinations of symbolic and material ingredients and of competence or know-how. In addition, we argue that managers, manufacturers and consumers are all variously involved in making and sustaining connections between these defining elements. We illustrate and elaborate on these ideas with reference to Nordic Walking, a form of speed walking with two sticks. First practiced in 1997, it is now a regular pursuit for more than seven million people in over 30 countries and is reputed to be Europe's fastest growing form of exercise. In discussing this case we specify the constitutive ingredients of Nordic Walking and its location relative to other practices that already exist. Our analysis raises a number of general questions. For example, how can managers and manufacturers institutionalise practices that require consumption of the things they make? Is there any fundamental difference in the role of 'lead' and 'ordinary' users in generating and sustaining innovations in practice? Taking these questions forward, we develop a theoretical position that relativises the conventionally distinct roles of consumers and producers and that represents a novel hybridisation of innovation studies and sociological theories of practice.