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Start with “Why,” but only if you have to: The strategic framing of novel ideas across different audiences

Falchetti, D., Cattani, G. & Ferriani, S. ORCID: 0000-0001-9669-3486 (2022). Start with “Why,” but only if you have to: The strategic framing of novel ideas across different audiences. Strategic Management Journal, 43(1), pp. 130-159. doi: 10.1002/smj.3329


Research Summary: Building on social psychology research and entrepreneurship work on linguistic framing, we argue that the appreciation of novel ideas varies with the mental construal that members of different audiences use to evaluate them. Specifically, we theorize that the congruency between idea framing and audiences' mental construals depends on audiences' level of expertise in evaluating novel ideas. In four experiments, we found that innovators benefit from deploying framing strategies congruent with audiences' mental construals: novices (e.g., lay people, crowdfunders) appreciate more novel ideas framed in abstract why terms, while experts (e.g., professional investors, innovation managers) novel ideas framed in concrete how terms. Integrating the strategic framing of novel ideas with construal level theory and audience heterogeneity contributes to research on entrepreneurship, innovation, and impression management.

Managerial Summary: One of the critical challenges that innovators (e.g., entrepreneurs) face is to persuade relevant audiences (e.g., users, crowdfunders, professional investors, and innovation managers) to support their novel ideas. This article integrates various literatures concerned with the evaluation of novelty to examine the impact of different framing strategies on the reception of novel ideas by different audiences. By demonstrating that the framing of a novel business idea affects audience members' evaluation, and that the effectiveness of different frames (why vs. how) varies with the target audiences (novices vs. experts), we offer actionable insights into how innovators can strategically use linguistic framing to increase the likelihood of eliciting favorable evaluations and resource commitment for their ideas.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Falchetti, D., Cattani, G. and Ferriani, S. (2021). Start with “Why,” but only if you have to: The strategic framing of novel ideas across different audiences. Strategic Management Journal, which has been published in final form at, doi: 10.1002/smj.3329. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited. © 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Publisher Keywords: Novel Idea; Framing; Narratives/Storytelling; Novices/Experts; Audiences
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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