Practitioner-Scientist Debate “Innovation in Organizations”


Prof. Dr. phil. Michael Frese, National University of Singapore and Leuphana University of Lueneburg
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tom Sommerlatte, CEO Osiris MIC GmbH; Chairman of the Advisory Board of Arthur D. Little GmbH; Honorary Professor, University of Kassel.
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Scholl, Organizational & Social Psychology, Humboldt University, Berlin; Initiator and partner of artop GmbH – Institute at Humboldt University, Berlin.


Empirical research in psychology proceeds in small steps through tiny pieces of broad areas of public interest; so, it is usually very difficult for practitioners to gain an unbiased overview and useful recommendations for their daily work from scientific research. This state of affairs holds especially true for the field of innovation because innovations encompass many different aspects on all human system levels and they are researched in diverse disciplines where the bulk of publications on innovation does not come from psychology. From their own overview over the rich scientific and/or practitioner-oriented literature about innovation, the debaters try to distill and discuss the most important insights in the Practitioner-Scientist Debate “Innovation in Organizations”.

Controversial Perspectives
Michael Frese, experienced researcher, holds that “any first thought on innovation is wrong” and “all formulas that are suggested to practice are wrong”. He recommends a dialectical view on all facets of innovation, proceeding from thesis to antithesis and synthesis which is but a new thesis in the next round of deliberations and practical measures. Tom Sommerlatte, experienced practitioner, holds that interaction and communication with the intended beneficiaries of innovation, the clients, is most important in order to recognize the relevant innovation potential. The problem is that the clients themselves often do not really know their own needs and utilities. So, a maieutic dialogue with potential clients is recommended throughout the innovation process. Wolfgang Scholl, primarily facilitator in this dialogue, holds that constructive conflict management is most important because it promotes relevant knowledge gains as well as the coordination capability, both being mediators to successful innovations.

Implications for Research/Practice
The research situation seems to ask for more integrative theory building across the relevant disciplines. One way to support this could be the inclusion of more innovation researchers into the EAWOP Innovation Group which had its first meeting on November 23, 2012, in Berlin, and will meet again in Münster at the EAWOP congress. Another way would be an enlargement of this group with interested researchers from other disciplines.For bridging the research-practice gap, more joint projects with careful evaluations would be helpful on the one side, and an interchange of scientists with consultants on the other. The concrete implications for the practice of innovation will be one of the discussion points in this debate.


Tom Sommerlatte


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tom Sommerlatte

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Dr. Tom W.H.A. Sommerlatte is Chairman of the Advisory Board of Arthur D. Little

Based on his more than 40 years of top-management consulting experience, Dr. Sommerlatte is a renowned authority in the area of strategy and innovation
management. He has worked for a large number of European and American companies, helping them to exploit technological and business innovation opportunities, to restructure for seizing global business opportunities and to design the processes and approaches for cost effective implementation. Several large corporations have asked him to assist their leadership in rethinking their strategy and set-up for global competitiveness.

Before joining Arthur D. Little, Dr. Sommerlatte worked in the area of systems design at the Institute for Systems Research, Heidelberg. At Arthur D. Little, he started out as a consultant in Brussels, then was appointed Managing Director of the company’s subsidiaries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, later he assumed responsibility for Arthur D. Little’s European operations as a Senior Vice President, and finally became the Executive Chairman of the company’s worldwide management consulting business.

He ist author and co-author of several management books such as “Management of the High Performance Organization”, “Management of the Learning Processes in Corporations”, “The Innovation Premium” and “Quintessence of Trust Building”.

He studied Physical Chemistry at the Universities of Berlin, Rochester, N.Y., and Paris. At the latter he received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering.

He also holds a MBA from the European Institute for Business Administration, INSEAD.

He is a member of several Boards and Curatoria and holds an honorary professorship at the University of Kassel.

He speaks fluent German, English and French.

Michael Frese


Prof. Dr. Michael Frese

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Prof. Frese holds a joint appointment at National University of Singapore, Business School and Leuphana University of Lueneburg (Germany). Prof. Frese’s research spans a wide range of basic and applied topics within organizational behavior and work psychology. He contributed to how people influence and change organizations with new ideas (personal initiative); he further concentrated on innovation and entrepreneurship and contributed a number of highly cited studies in this area – all of them with his students and collaborators. In some of these articles, his co-authors and Frese suggested that innovation cannot be put into any clear and easy-to-teach formula but tends to develop dynamically and dialectically. This makes him critical of many formulaic suggestions of how to increase innovation in firms.

Frese has authored more than 250 articles (in amongst other journals JAP, JPSP, AMJ, JBV, JVB, JOB, ROB, JOOP, and APIR) and was editor/author of more than 20 books and special issues. He is Germany’s most frequently cited work and organizational psychologist and business and management scientist and one of the most frequently cited Europeans (citation counts between ca 4800 (ISI- article based) and above 12500 (Google Scholar); his current H-index is between 35 (ISI-article based) and 62 (Google)).

Prof. Frese serves as field editor for Journal of Business Venturing; he was President of the International Association of Applied Psychology, president (speaker) of the division Work and Organizational Psychology in Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie, editor of the journal APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY: An International Review, Co-Editor of Psychologische Rundschau, editorial board member of various book series (entrepreneurship series in Germany, SIOP Frontiers book series, Organization and Management Series (Routledge)); he also serves on a number of journal editorial review boards, e.g., Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Applied Psychology: An International Review, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.

Wolfgang Scholl


Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Scholl

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Dr. Wolfgang Scholl is Professor (em.) for Organizational and Social Psychology at Humboldt University, Berlin ( He has completed research in such diverse areas as
- Innovation processes in firms, schools, science institutions, and organizational networks
- Effectiveness of collaboration within groups and organizations
- Codetermination processes and effects within the German industrial relations system
- Human resource planning and politics
- Power used as promotive or restrictive control in organizations and in the laboratory
- Determinants and effects of computer-mediated communication
- Mobility of young and grown-up people and their determinants in a longitudinal study
- Knowledge processes, information pathologies, and decision-making in organizations
- Integrative theory building and research in the field of communication and interaction
and has published over 100 articles and several books in these areas.

Wolfgang Scholl studied psychology and social sciences (after a first study of protestant theology) and received his PhD in social psychology, 1975, from the University of Mannheim. He became assistant professor (Wiss. Assistent) for Business Administration in Munich, associate professor for Economic and Social Psychology in Göttingen and full professor at Humboldt University for Organizational and Social Psychology.

As a practitioner he worked for Siemens, Munich, in the Human Resources Department for Upper Management levels. In Berlin, he is partner of the private consulting, training, and applied research firm ‘artop GmbH – Institute at Humboldt University’ (; he was initiator, co-founder and until 2006 head of artop.
Based on his ongoing innovation project “Bases of enduring innovation capability: Trust and evolutionary knowledge production” he initiated the EAWOP innovation group.