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Tradition is not a Business Model :

Innovation Challenges for SME and Family Businesses in the era of Digitalization

Digital transformation has recently become the subject of many white papers and policy briefs (Autio, 2017; Parviainen et al., 2017). Consulting firms are increasingly rolling out services aimed at assisting existing companies in their digital transformation agendas (Parviainen et al.,, 2017). This is indicative of the potential of digital technologies to revolutionize business operations (Rosin, Proksch, Stubner & Pinkwart, 2020). The disruption in traditional firms and markets caused by digital transformation and accompanying business model innovations have been intensified by changes in behaviours and expectations of customers. These important transformations in value creation and delivery are facilitated by resources in the form of digital assets and capabilities as well as agile structures which are considered as crucial elements of a good digital transformation strategy (Verhoef et al., 2019). 

In patricular, SME are unable to identify and recombine digital competencies and assets, let alone exploit them in an agile environment (Björkdahl, 2020). To cope with these is necessary for the survival of family firms to ensure that the desire for transgenerational transfer of ownership and control is achieved (Kotlar & De Massis, 2013; Nambisan, 2017). However, family firms show unique characteristics that may influence how they approach digitalization. Family firms are typically conservative coupled with inertia in departing from established business practices (Chrisman & Patel, 2012; De Massis, Frattini, & Lichtenthaler, 2013). Other characteristics are path dependency (Gersick, Davis, Hampton, & Lansberg, 1997), rigid mental models (König et al., 2013), long term horizon (Berrone et al, 2012; Kellermanns et al, 2012) and a focus on family centred non-financial goals (Gomez-Mejia et al., 2013; Miller & Le Breton-Miller, 2014). These characteristics may influence the approach as well as the outcome of digitalization (Kammerlander, 2016). 


  • Thomas Clauß 
  • Dirk Lüttgens 
  • Marcel Hülsbeck  

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