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Tradition as a Resource: Robust and Radical Interpretations of Operatic Tradition in the Italian Opera Industry, 1989-2011

Cancellieri, G., Cattani, G. & Ferriani, S. ORCID: 0000-0001-9669-3486 (2022). Tradition as a Resource: Robust and Radical Interpretations of Operatic Tradition in the Italian Opera Industry, 1989-2011. Strategic Management Journal, doi: 10.1002/smj.3436


Research Summary. A major challenge that organizations face in cultural industries in dealing with cherished traditions is how to best mediate between adherence to tradition and pursuit of innovation, how to accommodate renewal without stifling tradition. We address this conundrum by integrating ideas from consumer-oriented psychological research on evaluative judgments and design-oriented innovation research. We show that firms can improve customers’ perceptions of value by offering robust interpretations of traditional products that preserve the most familiar aspects of a tradition while departing from it on more peripheral features; however, when the interpretation is more radical – i.e., it alters core elements of the tradition – customers are more likely to experience incongruity with their schemas, resulting in a negative perception of value. We also postulate that different audience segments will respond differently to the (re)interpreted tradition because individuals vary in the use of generic schemas depending on their level of expertise, and different schemas may accommodate smaller or greater changes in a configuration of attributes. We develop and test these hypotheses in the context of the Italian opera industry over the period 1989-2011. The results offer insights into how firms can maintain a sense of continuity with a revered tradition while ensuring its renewal over time.

Managerial Summary. Reinterpreting revered traditions is a way to exploit timeless resources encased in history by recasting them in new ways. This paper reveals how firms can balance tradition and innovation through the design choices they make, thus expanding the range of strategic tools that can be leveraged to influence customers’ perceptions of value. In doing so, it helps managers address the need for renewal, while at the same time remaining sensitive to the heterogeneity of different customer segments, by manipulating the core and/or peripheral features of a product (here the opera). Although firms in cultural industries often face the challenge of resolving the tension between the preservation of tradition and risky innovation, many other firms across different industries also confront the issue of developing new products while building intimate links with their traditions.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes. © 2022 The Authors. Strategic Management Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Publisher Keywords: Tradition; Resource; Robust/Radical Interpretations; Audience Heterogeneity; Schemas; Expertise; Italian Opera Industry
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DG Italy
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
M Music and Books on Music
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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