In July, Spinverse Consultant Sonja Lätti defended her doctoral dissertation on the evolution of innovation and strategy processes at Aalto University School of Business, becoming the 14th holder of doctorate degree in our company. She presented her case study on the development of the people flow solutions at KONE between 2004-2015. The findings show how the efforts on both top and middle management levels are interconnected when driving change in a large organisation. We asked Sonja a few questions about her research and how she managed to combine work and scientific study.
For starters, congratulations on your achievement! How would you summarise the most significant findings of your case study?
Thank you! I am very pleased that I managed to complete my research as planned. As for the research, I found out that top management decision-making authority and support is ultimately needed for a new area of business to be established in a large corporation. This is especially important when the technology base or the business concept of the new area significantly differs from the core business. Achieving this legitimacy for business ownership can take a long time.
While the official corporate strategy might be in line with the new area of business, in large organizations the established internal processes and systems pose challenges for new business development. For instance, issues related to the life cycle management of the new area may come up when integrating and building new business for an area that does not necessarily match the operating logic of the core business.
What were the factors behind continuing your studies to doctoral research?
I was working as a project researcher in a multidisciplinary research team at Aalto, looking into digital innovations in the retailing industry and applied for doctoral studies at the department of marketing. However, I got interested in strategy in the organization theory doctoral course and changed my doctoral research topic from retailing to strategy and innovation processes.
How did you end up choosing this topic for your dissertation?
I was interested in the complex internal processes in large organizations and how multiple managerial levels influence strategy making. KONE interested me because it was renowned for innovativeness and had undergone some major changes in strategy over the recent years.
I was doing preliminary interviews at KONE with some contacts who worked with people flow solutions, and that is when I got interested in the topic of the transition of innovations from R&D to commercialisation.
“One of the highlights in this interesting research work was in fact to interview the KONE management: their insights, experiences and stories were truly inspiring!”
How did you manage to combine demanding Consultant work at Spinverse with equally demanding research work?
Both require such intensity that it was definitely a challenge. I took a four-month study leave to finish the major sections of the thesis, and this last spring I worked on the finishing issues on the weekends.
Do you plan to use the findings of your research in your work?
At Spinverse, commercialisation strategies and building the organizational capabilities for companies for scaling up their innovations are part of almost all projects that we work with. I would like to use my findings to proactively evaluate the internal challenges that managers on multiple levels face, when moving from product development to commercialization.
How does it feel to have finished this project?
In a way, it is still hard to believe that the past years of intense research are now completed so I need some time to digest the fact. Of course, I feel happy and relieved that I managed to keep the schedules for this spring despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19. Everything just fell into place perfectly and now I am looking forward to a long and relaxing summer holiday.
For the upcoming months, Sonja will be focusing on entirely different tasks as she just started her parental leave, with the new family member expected soon. Defending for a doctorate degree just before taking a parental leave demonstrates quite a remarkable achievement in time management and planning! We wish Sonja a wonderful time with the family!
Laura Koponen, Managing Director of Spinverse joins in to congratulate Sonja and shares her own experience: "When I joined Spinverse back in 2008, I was in the process of finalising my doctorate dissertation, defending it in June.. I started my parental leave right after and my son was born in September. I can fully relate to Sonja's hard work and encourage her to enjoy the new chapter in her life to the fullest!"