In the context of economic turmoil, firms in the creative industries (CIs) must make fast decisions as to when to break through with innovations. This paper discusses nontechnological, organizational innovation of early-adopters, first movers and early followers in order to overcome persistent economic decline, and the implication of different strategies for innovation success. The strategic principle of the pioneer’s advantage rests on pre-emption – the premise that ‘the early bird gets the worm’ and this often applies to business model innovation (BMI). ‘But the second mouse gets the cheese’ points at early followers who may have a more systematic, strategic approach towards innovation. Greater understanding of the advantages of each strategic approach and their significance for innovation performance is critical for CIs where unpredictability and the accelerating pace of change pervade the decisions concerning innovation. Drawing on five exemplary cases of archaeological firms in Spain, this paper explores different innovation process dynamics. The study develops a contingency model where pioneers who challenge their current business model, may be outperformed by early followers who incorporate complementary management innovation (MI) initiatives into the BMI.