Managerial Political Behavior in Innovation Portfolio Management: A Sensegiving and Sensebreaking Process

Tobias Röth, Patrick Spieth, Donald Lange

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


By applying formalized innovation portfolio management systems, firms seek to ensure an alignment of their goals and strategy with their employees' different abilities, actions, and outcomes. However, research indicates that nonrational, political behavior also determines formalized innovation portfolio management decision-making processes. Research on political behavior in respect of innovation portfolio management usually conceptualizes political behavior as a set of self-serving activities, such as negotiation, bargaining, coalition building, and acquiring power, aimed at protecting, maintaining, or promoting an actor's self-interest and power. Consequently, extant research tends to focus on political behavior's dysfunctional impacts on decision-making processes and their subsequent outcomes. This paper challenges this negativity bias by exploring a novel, neutral specification of political behavior and its relation to innovation portfolio management decision-making processes. By conducting an automotive industry case study focusing on the innovation portfolio management decision-making processes, the paper analyzed the data from 43 interviewees. The conceptual model shows that managers' political capabilities determine their ability to behave politically. According to the results, political behavior comprises the activities that prepare the stage and orchestrate others in order to form a political coalition. Furthermore, results show that political behavior functions as a sensegiving and a sensebreaking process, with managers seeking to shape an innovation project's understanding according to their interests and to influence portfolio decisions. The resulting novel specification of political behavior extends the construct's scope and validity by investigating their functional and dysfunctional aspects, and by indicating that a political sensemaking process complements formalized innovation portfolio management decision-making processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-559
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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