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Managers' silent whisper innovation involvement and role-modeling in service firms
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Business Studies.
2018 (English)In: European Journal of Innovation Management, ISSN 1460-1060, E-ISSN 1758-7115, Vol. 21, no 1, p. 2-19Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - The task of leading innovation is predominantly pictured as a supportive role vis-a-vis employees. Motivation is a crucial aspect of this task. To better understand the practice of this change-oriented leadership task, the actual behavior and activities of managers are investigated. The purpose of this paper is to reflect through practice and self-reports how this leadership challenge is executed.

Design/methodology/approach - In this longitudinal multi-method investigation, the service innovation literature constitutes the main theoretical framework. The investigation draws additionally on leadership literature about how to understand leadership through practice. The methodological design facilitated the drawing of causal inferences in the dynamics of service innovation.

Findings - The investigation enhances our understanding of managers' particular context of innovation, and particularly the initiation context. It provides empirically grounded descriptions of what managers identify as potential opportunities, and how they take them further in the ideation stage. The results develop the suggestion that leadership roles, and specifically change-oriented roles, are not restricted to initiating or enabling activities related to the employees. Instead the much downplayed leadership role, i.e. the active practice-based involvement in innovation, is theorized as a role that is continuously activated, but tends to be set aside for contingency reasons.

Research limitations/implications - Further research is needed to assess the importance of managers' involvement in the practice of innovation, both through systematic mapping of ideas on a larger scale, and through the employee perspective. This paper provides useful insights on managers' cognition and involvement in innovation for further investigations of innovation management.

Practical implications - The results provide awareness for managers regarding their diverse leadership roles related to innovation. First, the study embraces heterogeneous ideas that are useful to evaluate and constitute role-modeling. Second, it highlights how managers' execution of innovation creates awareness about the challenges involved. Finally, but maybe most important, the results alert managers of the discontinuity, even in strategically anchored intentional innovation.

Social implications - In a changing innovation landscape, individual firms need to draw on other firms to achieve their innovation strategies. In pursuit of this goal, this paper enhances the understanding of the role-modeling leadership task. It is a novel way of guiding individuals that are exposed to new and uncertain innovation contexts, and rethinking how innovation eventually can be achieved.

Originality/value - While earlier research has identified the multifaceted leadership behavior to support innovation, this paper outlines the contextual conditions and the practice of executing the suggested powerful role of being a role-model for others.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
EMERALD GROUP PUBLISHING LTD , 2018. Vol. 21, no 1, p. 2-19
Keywords [en]
Service innovation, Leadership, Managers' context and conditions, Role-modelling
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-338988DOI: 10.1108/EJIM-02-2017-0020ISI: 000418036100001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-338988DiVA, id: diva2:1174093
Available from: 2018-01-15 Created: 2018-01-15 Last updated: 2018-01-15Bibliographically approved

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Sölvell, Ingela

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