Taking a critical look at major perspectives on innovation, this book suggests that innovation is not a designed functional activity of a firm or an intentional process through which firms anticipate changes in conditions. Jose Fonseca proposes that the concepts behind the innovation experiences cannot be traced to any particular time, space or individual, even if one person has figured prominently. The innovative ideas in the examples considered did not occur as a direct product of a purposeful search triggered by the perception of some problem to solve, nor did they result from a sequential process that was laid out in advance. Instead, innovative ideas were a product of streams of conversations that extended over long periods of time and were characterized by critical degrees of misunderstanding and redundancy. Fonseca's book presents innovation as new meaning potentially emerging in ongoing, every-day conversations.
Drawing on the theory of complex responsive process, developed in the first two volumes of this series, Fonseca presents a particular way of understanding innovation. The experiences of innovation studied in this book suggest that innovations do not start with a match between a need to be satisfied and a set of competencies and tools purposefully brought together to meet the need. On the contrary, identification of need is a consequence of success, rather than a pre-condition. The innovations studied in this book (a selection of innovation experiences from Portugal are considered) were subject to constant and never ending redefinition.