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The role of work and organizational psychology for workplace innovation practice: From short-sightedness to eagle view

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This paper is premised on the observation that the potential of Work and Organizational (WO) Psychologists to successfully implement workplace innovation (WPI) practices and, in turn, improve the quality of work and organizational performance is greatly underused. One reason for this is that WPI practice often adopts a more specialised approach and single discipline focus rather than an integrated perspective. An integrated approach would imply understanding WPI from the strategy, structure, and culture perspectives. We outline ways in which WPI practice can appreciate and use the potential of WO psychology as well as how WO Psychologists can broaden their focus and strengthen their contribution to WPI practice.
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THE ROLE OF WORK AND ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOGOLY FOR WORKPLACE
INNOVATION PRACTICE: FROM SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS TO EAGLE VIEW
Maria Karanika-Murray
Nottingham Trent University, UK
maria.karanika-murray@ntu.ac.uk
Peter R. A. Oeij
TNO, The Netherlands Organization for Applied
Scientific Research
About the authors
Maria Karanika-Murray is an associate professor in occupational health psychology. Her
research seeks to understand the determinants and conditions that can support work-related
well-being and performance, with a focus on workplace design, intervention evaluation,
presenteeism (attending work while sick), employability, and older workers.
Peter R.A. Oeij is a senior researcher/consultant at TNO, The Netherlands Organization for
Applied Scientific Research (Leiden, The Netherlands). The main topics of his work are
innovation management, workplace innovation, social innovation, productivity, flexibility,
working smarter and team work.
Abstract
This paper is premised on the observation that the potential of Work and Organizational (WO)
Psychologists to successfully implement workplace innovation (WPI) practices and, in turn,
improve the quality of work and organizational performance is greatly underused. One reason
for this is that WPI practice often adopts a more specialised approach and single discipline
focus rather than an integrated perspective. An integrated approach would imply understanding
WPI from the strategy, structure, and culture perspectives. We outline ways in which WPI
practice can appreciate and use the potential of WO psychology as well as how WO
Psychologists can broaden their focus and strengthen their contribution to WPI practice.
Introduction
The increasing adoption and implementation of workplace innovation (WPI) practices in
business organizations poses a number of challenges for the role of Work and Organizational
(WO) Psychologists in WPI. Here, by Work and Organizational Psychologists we refer to
researchers and practitioners in the fields of occupational psychology, occupational health
psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, and cognate areas, whereas we use the
term WPI to refer to innovations in deploying human talent and organising work processes that
should result in good work and better performance. WPI, as explained in more detail later, is
renewal through deploying human talents and organizational design, aiming at both better
performance and better jobs. The implications of WPI practice for WO Psychologists are the
need to find synergy in people and organizational issues on the one hand, and the need to
communicate the value and potential of WPI to stakeholders with different backgrounds, on the
other. Challenges that emerge from the meeting of WO psychology and WPI practice include,
for example, WO Psychologists being called to provide rigorous evidence for relevant practice,
often having to move between increasingly varied roles as both reflective practitioners and
action researchers, and being required to communicate with diverse groups of stakeholders
with different agendas and understandings. Unless such challenges are successfully
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addressed, they can become barriers for the successful utilisation of WO psychological
knowledge in the implementation of WPI practice.
These challenges are not unique to the field. Rather, they reflect a long-standing concern about
a practitioner-researcher divide in WO psychology and in business and management (e.g.,
Anderson, 2005; Anderson, Herriott, & Hodgkinson, 2001). The practitioner-researcher divide
denotes the phenomenon of practitioners and researchers operating in isolation from each
other: research advancements are often ignored by practitioners and practical problems are
often ignored in research. More broadly, a practitioner-researcher divide is also afflicting a
range of fields including personnel selection (Anderson, 2005), nursing practice (Arber, 2006),
education practice (Fraser, 1997), design (Wampler, 2010), occupational health and safety
(Zanko & Dawson, 2012), and even foreign policy (Nye, 2008). Others too have called for
management scholars to place practice and the pragmatic concerns of practitioners on their
agenda (Zanko & Dawson, 2012). Nevertheless, a recent upsurge in the solutions proposed to
bridge this divide encourages optimism about the chances of success for using WO psychology
to support WPI practice.
In this paper, we discuss how the practitioner-researcher challenges for WO Psychologists are
framed within WPI practice. We then identify a range of ways in which WO Psychologists can
demonstrate the value of the field to WPI and examine ways in which the role of WO
Psychologists can be strengthened for successful WPI practice. By examining the transaction
between WO psychology and WPI practice, with this position paper we address the question
“what is the role of work and organizational Psychologists for workplace innovation practice?”.
To achieve this, we draw from a range of literatures, such as WO psychology, WPI, Human
Resource Management (HRM), and industrial relations, taking a necessarily integrative and
critical rather than a systematic approach.
What challenges is WO psychology called to deal with in WPI practice?
WPI practice poses unique challenges for WO psychology and, at the same time, WO
psychology can offer opportunities for bolstering WPI practice. In practice, there is a risk for the
practitioner-researcher divide to be exacerbated unless we can identify ways for the two fields
to converge. Here, we discuss the meaning and practice of WPI and what challenges this
context poses for WO psychology research and practice.
The applied definition of workplace innovation (WPI) that we employ here is that of: “developed
and implemented practice or combination of practices that structurally (structure orientation or a
focus on division of labour) and/or culturally (culture orientation or a focus on empowerment)
enable employees to participate in organizational change and renewal to improve quality of
working life and organizational performance” (Oeij et al., 2015, p. 8, 14).
Importantly, the structure- and culture-oriented WPI practices are part of a broader
comprehensive organizational strategy that provides the framework for implementing WPI in the
specific organizational context and with the available resources. The structure orientation
contains practices that structure work organization and job design (De Sitter, Den Hertog &
Dankbaar, 1997; Oeij et al., 2015). Structure-oriented practices can stimulate employee control
and autonomy (De Sitter et al., 1997). These practices concern the division of labour, the
division of controlling (or managing) and executing tasks, and providing employees with
decision latitude or capacity for control. For instance, do employers allow employees a genuine
say in organizational change initiatives by providing them with task autonomy and voice in
decisions; or do they only offer a token to employee empowerment and employability by inviting
ideas but not acting on them (Herriot, 2001)? Such an approach goes beyond HR-dominated
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streams of practice (such as high performance work practices and high involvement work
practices), because it is rooted in the choices made on how to design the production system.
Hence, it goes beyond HR practices by supporting and improving the underlying causes of
engagement and not merely softening the possible negative effects of non-engagement.
The culture orientation, on the other hand, includes practices that provide opportunities for
employees to participate in various ways such as, for example, in organizational decision-
making (Oeij et al., 2015). Participation is more than being listened to; rather, employees co-
decide on the issues that concern them and affect their day-to-day work and well-being (Oeij et
al., 2015). Participation is not limited to employees but also applies to employee representatives
engaging in dialogue and collective bargaining. Culture-oriented practices can stimulate
commitment and provide employees and employee representatives with voice (Totterdill &
Exton, 2014). As such, not only do they allow for voice in contract negotiations and pay for
performance decisions, but also consist of psychological rewards, such as appreciation,
recognition and professional acknowledgement. Genuine commitment and voice find
expression in ‘formal’ rewards and in the psychological contract and employee relations.
The practice of WPI poses four challenges that the field of WO psychology is in a very good
position to address. First, in order to practice WPI successfully and reap the benefits associated
with it, one needs to look at the organization as a whole and consider the reciprocal effects of
strategy, structure, and culture (Howaldt, Oeij, Dhondt, & Fruytier, 2016). Although not
uncontested, it was Chandler (1962) who coined the adage that structure follows strategy, to
which we add that culture follows structure (see Figure 1). Strategy determines the design of
the production of products or services, based on the central purpose of the organization. The
evolving production system reflects a design built on a certain division of labour, which can be
characterised in terms of high or low job autonomy, i.e., decentralised versus centralised. From
here follows the nature of operational employment relationships (in particular, dealing with the
degree of the division of managing and executing tasks and the splitting up of responsibilities
and decision latitude in the working process), which is mirrored in the design of departments,
teams, jobs, and tasks. Meanwhile, the management philosophy (i.e., centralised vs.
decentralised) determines not only the production system, but also the type of HR system
applied to support the production system. As such, the HR system can focus on either control
or commitment. Third, strategy and structure set the boundaries for the organizational
behaviour exhibited by leaders/managers and employees. A preference for centralised or
decentralised production systems breeds a type of leadership that is either task-oriented or
people-oriented (i.e., transactional and more top-down, and transformational and more bottom-
up leadership, respectively), and lays foundations for employee engagement. Such behaviour is
further stimulated or facilitated by the HR system. Ultimately, the HR system defines the social
and contractual elements of the employment relationships and the features of the economic and
psychological contract, described as employee involvement. Finally, strategy, structure, and
culture together lead to a number of outcomes including quality of working life (autonomy,
stress, motivation etc.), organizational performance (efficiency, effectiveness, customer
satisfaction, market share, etc.), and innovative capability (resilience, creativity,
resourcefulness, right to play, future proofing, etc.).
Figure 1 below displays this reasoning. The absence of a direct arrow from strategy to culture
does not imply absence of a relationship between the two. Rather, it highlights the fact that
managers design structures that stimulate certain behaviours. In other words, managers design
organizations and, in turn, organizational design largely determines people’s behaviour. In turn,
behaviour and structures define the culture of the workplace itself. For example, people tend to
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behave differently within a top-down/centralised structure, which reflects a control strategy, as
opposed to a bottom-up/decentralised structure, which reflects a commitment strategy.
Figure 1. Structure follows strategy, and culture follows structure
WO Psychologists are in a good position to help understand the causal links among strategy,
structure, and culture, which are too often overlooked (De Sitter et al., 1997; MacDuffie, 1997).
For example, few managers may consider how strategy impacts structure and consequently
employee behaviour, as described in the example above. Few are also able to understand the
multi-causal nature of several of these elements. For example, organizations that are run top-
down can turn more democratic when stakeholders become more powerful to initiate bottom-up
renewal, or when external powers force an organization to be redesigned. Unfortunately, in
practice, WO Psychologists tend to be marginalised, and viewed as peripheral, even juxtaposed
to the primary purpose of the organization, and this tends to limit their opportunities for access
to board level decision-making (Karanika-Murray & Weyman, 2013). In many organizations,
WO Psychologists, especially those who are more practice-focused, are often too much of an
island and for various reasons also unable to link their role to broader human resource
structure culture
strategy
production system:
high or low job
autonomy
design of:
departments
teams
jobs
tasks
type of leadership:
people centred and
bottom up or task
oriented and top down
employee involvement
/ engagement:
high / low
management
‘philosophy’:
centralise or
decentralise
HR system:
control or commitment
quality of working life
quality of organizational
performance
innovative capability
operational employment
relationship
social and contractual
employment
relationship
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management issues. In the next section, we explore how WO Psychologists can position
themselves differently and add value.
Second, WPI is by nature multidisciplinary: it brings together a range of stakeholders and draws
from a range of knowledge and practice domains. WPI is not solely about worker engagement,
workplace health, job design, or human resource management. Rather, it is about integrating a
range of perspectives such as business and operations management. Too often, however, WPI
seems to be approached as a solely human resource management topic. As a consequence,
many underestimate the potential of WO psychology to contribute to WPI, which may result in
underusing the potential of WPI (Howaldt et al., 2016). Well-known examples come from the
work-related stress literature. For instance, many practitioners and researchers tend to limit
themselves to the application of stress management programmes that deal with the effects of
stress, but overlook the causes of stress that are deeper within the organization’s structure
(Cox, Griffiths, & Rial-González, 2000; Cox, Karanika, Griffiths, & Houdmont, 2007; Karasek &
Theorell, 1992; Kompier & Kristensen, 2001; Oeij et al., 2006).
Third, because WPI practice necessarily involves the organization in its entirety, it also poses
communication challenges for those involved in its implementation, including managers,
researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders. In practice, human resource, line, and
operational managers seem to function within separate silos within organizations. Indeed, this
communication issue is known (Petronio, Ellemers, Giles, & Gallois, 1998; Roehling et al.,
2005; Stone, 2004; Sutcliffe, Lewton, & Rosenthal, 2004). By appreciating the stakeholders’
different perspectives, WO Psychologists can help to identify and address their different needs
and facilitate dialogue among them. For example, by understanding both research and the
needs of the business and its commitments to customers, they are able to better translate
research findings into practice and align these to business priorities. By understanding
leadership theory and employee motivation, they are able to appreciate the challenges that
managers have, identify the motivational needs of employees, and smooth communication
between the two. And by getting acquainted with the basics of operations management, they
are able to become better partners for engineers and shop floor managers.
Fourth, although WPI is necessarily an affair among multiple stakeholders, the hierarchical
nature of organizations often means that power rather than relevance or expertise determine
the influence of specific stakeholders and this is especially the case in WPI practice. Power in
most organizations is asymmetrically distributed (Buchanan & Badham, 2008), which means
that owners and managers have higher decision-making power than those carrying out the
work. Often, management fads, opinions, and desires feed change, rather than rigorous
evidence and evidence-based good practice. How managers think largely influences how the
organization is or should be run. A management philosophy, for instance, to centralise or
decentralise, may strongly affect whether an organization is led more top-down or bottom-up,
respectively. Convincing examples stem from the literature on lean management. Originally,
lean management saw high quality of working life and genuine team autonomy as key drivers
for enhancing the quality of performance (Suzaki, 1987; Womack & Jones, 1996; Womack,
Jones, & Roos, 1990). However, the practical application of lean thinking has been dominated
by a drive to improve cost-efficiency at the detriment of the quality of jobs, essentially increasing
workload (Oeij, Kraan, & Dhondt, 2013). In this case, the potential of WO psychology to take a
whole-systems approach can be beneficial. The context of WPI makes collaboration between
practitioners and researchers and between WO Psychologists and other professionals
extremely important. In the next section, we make the potential value of WO psychology more
tangible.
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How can WPI practice recognize the untapped potential of WO psychology?
Achieving a more substantive use of WO psychology in WPI practice relies on two conditions:
that WPI recognises the potential that WO psychology can offer and, at the same time, that WO
Psychologists broaden their role in WPI practice. For WPI to recognise the potential of WO
psychology, two recommendations can be made.
First, it is necessary that all WPI stakeholders develop a recognition that WPI practice is
multidisciplinary and involves a strategic focus on the whole organization. Power and influence
is important only to the extent that it is functional and can help to achieve an agreed common
goal. In this case, the common goal is to successfully implement WPI, which can only be
achieved if all the elements of WPI are met and if all stakeholders and WPI practitioners
(Psychologists, HR specialists, and social science practitioners) collaborate.
In addition, because of their training, WO Psychologists are in a good position to deliver the
evidence in evidence-based management practice. Chartered WO Psychologists are trained
intensively in all EU countries, but this training rarely includes a focus on organizational strategy
and structure. Integrating this focus in WO Psychologists’ training would help to contextualise
their knowledge, make it more easily applicable in practice, and strengthen its transferability in
a range of settings. This is all the more relevant in the context of WPI, given that WPI research
falls into the realm of applied science and involves offering solutions to problems ((mode 2 of
research) rather than developing ‘scientific inquiry’ (mode 1 of research) (cf. Anderson et al.,
2001; Gibbons et al., 1994). This is in line with Argyris’s (1996) notion of a need for actionable
knowledge, that is, knowledge that can be used practically to improve the functioning of
organizations. For instance, he points out that, whereas there is much work in the empirical
literature on the relevance of trust in managing, little attention has been paid to how managers
can create trust. Mobilising, translating, adapting, and applying research findings in order to
develop relevant practice that is based on solid evidence is a strength that WO Psychologists
bring.
All WPI practitioners could consider the fact that in practicing WPI, culture is dependent on both
structure and strategy, and that these are determined by management, marketing, business
and sales, and (technical/operational) engineers. This requires adopting a more pluralistic
approach to collaboration. Indeed, team innovativeness is dependent on both team climate and
team structure (Anderson, Potočnik & Zhou, 2014). Adopting a pluralistic approach is a matter
of self-reflection for all those involved in WPI practice in order to make the most of everyone’s
skills, knowledge, and expertise.
How can WO Psychologists strengthen their contribution to WPI practice?
WO Psychologists too can implement some changes in order to claim a place or develop a
stronger foothold in WPI practice. Here we present our recommendations on how this can be
achieved.
First, for WO Psychologists to influence WPI, they must surpass HR management and become
acquainted with production systems design. This means that they should understand the
relationship between operational systems and job tasks and how these job tasks relate to
human resource issues. Adopting such a role would enable them to partake in improving both
performance and the quality of working life. It is thus possible to broaden the immediate focus
of WO psychology (from human resource management issues, individual health, and job
design, for example) and become acquainted with organizational strategy, structure, production
systems design, marketing, and IT systems. As Figure 2 below indicates, the role of WO
Psychologists can be expanded beyond human resource staff or ‘general’ managers (such as
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engineers, marketers, and technical managers) to that of consultancy partners or interlocutors
of functionaries. Engineers, IT designers, and operational managers design the (technological)
production system, which defines whether job autonomy will be centralised or decentralised.
Marketers develop products in conjunction with manufacturing that determines how production
orders flow through the organization, namely with or without a say of internal production
experts. Human resource staff design human resource systems as ‘supporting’ or ‘advising the
business’, which has consequences for workers in becoming docile or proactive task executors.
Finally, managers and team leaders may wish their employees to follow what markets demand
or to absorb market knowledge themselves from customers. Consequentially, employees may
become trivial task executors or co-innovators of the firm’s products or services. Whether WO
Psychologists embrace their role as active consultants or accept a secondary dependent role
largely determines how their expertise is used and developed. If WO Psychologists choose the
first avenue, WO psychology can become more ‘organizational’ in relation to WPI practice. This
is a matter of self-learning and expanding the WO psychology knowledge base.
In addition, it is important for an organization’s management to understand that WO
Psychologists’ expertise can contribute to both better jobs and better performance (De Sitter et
al., 1997; Pot, 2011; Ramstadt, 2014). The two are inseparable. WO Psychologists are also
able to help achieve a balance between a focus of WPI at the organizational level with a focus
of WPI at the individual level. This implies balancing business values and corporate economic
objectives with humanistic and societal values (Lefkowitz, 2008). This is a matter of WO
Psychologists adopting a new role and becoming allies with top management, decision-makers,
and business owners, rather than simply acting as researchers or consultants in the process of
WPI implementation. Those who make the decisions need expert input on matters on which
they are not as knowledgeable. A combination of knowledge and decision-making authority can
lead to more responsive practice and this can only be achieved by delegating a more strategic
role to WO Psychologists in organizations practicing WPI.
WO Psychologists also have a catalytic role for evidence-based management practice (Cascio,
2007; Rousseau & McCarthy, 2007). By sharing their expertise, they can demonstrate how
research can provide solutions to broader strategic challenges. By communicating and
translating research findings they can help practitioners solve problems (Shapiro, Kirkman, &
Courtney, 2007). For example, Aguinis et al. (2010) described how Psychologists can
demonstrate rigour and relevance of research for specific groups in specific contexts by
collecting additional quantitative data or more localised qualitative data to supplement existing
knowledge. This can be achieved by striving for a balance between the particular (relevance)
and the general (rigour) and for strong research that is relevant for the aims and practices of
business organizations. Neither overemphasising relevance at the expense of rigour (Aram &
Salipante, 2003) nor pushing for rigorous research whose findings are not readily applicable to
organizational practice (Anderson et al., 2001) is useful.
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Figure 2. Flowchart to conversations about the design of strategy, structure, and culture from the WO
psychologist’s (or social scientist’s) perspective
Note: White boxes represent the interlocutors of the WO psychologist/consultant. Grey boxes represent central domains for the
implementation of WPI practices. Blue boxes represent domains less central to the design of WPI practices, but with consequences
for WPI practices or how WPI practices play out (e.g., related to technical interventions in Step 1; team design and staffing in Step 2;
reward systems in Step 3). Red lines and grey dotted lines suggest that WO Psychologists are not allowed to ignore that they must
talk to White box interlocutors about Grey WPI issues if they want to steer on causes, and not just on effects (‘symptoms’).
The WO psychologist is the spider in the web that links the conversation about strategy, structure, and culture, who is on purpose -
not depicted as he/she provides advice to the change leader who is supposed to be really central and link the White Box stakeholders
to engage about the Grey issues when WPI interventions are being developed and implemented.
Step 1: At the strategic level, talk to marketing and business, who are responsible for products/services and the business model.
Step 2: At the structure level, talk to engineers, who are responsible for designing the production system into smaller segments like
departments and tasks; align the talking to engineers with the talking to HR (links with Step 3), who are responsible for staff, and the
co-design of departments, teams, jobs and tasks, and the HR system.
Step 3: Concerning culture, continue to talk to HR and leaders/managers about involving and engaging organizational members.
Leadership styles and mature ways of communication with bottom-up inputs are options for choice.
Note that the order of Steps 13 suggest linearity; in a change process, this is never the case. The steps will likely iterate. Not depicted
either in this scheme for reasons of simplicity, are employees / employee representatives. and top management, but they, of course,
do play either a direct role or indirect role (via representatives).
Furthermore, where the evidence is scarce, WO Psychologists can apply their research skills to
investigate specific practitioner-oriented research issues (Shapiro et al., 2007). The generation
of such evidence has to be problem-initiated rather than a purely intellectual activity, transcend
structure
culture
strategy
products / serv ices
business model
design of:
departments
teams
jobs
tasks
HR system
need for personnel
employee involvement
high / low
employee engagement
high / low
quality of work ing life
quality of organizational
performanc e
innov ative capability
marketing &
business
production sys tem
functional or flow
structure
leade rs / middle
management
engineers
STEP 1
STEP 2
STEP 3
HR
central domains for
WPI-prac tices
social scientists
must talk to…
not only HR and
leade rs but
especially engineers
STEPS 1, 2 & 3
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epistemological doctrinaire views, and geared at testing the validity of research as “utilization of
the knowledge in the world of practice” (Aram & Salipante, 2003, p. 203). The essential
question is: can this research evidence or new knowledge be immediately applied into practice?
In line with this, Hirschkorn and Geelan (2008) suggested that creating research translation
roles is one of the four essential solutions for closing the research-practice gap (the others
being: fixing the researcher, fixing the practitioner, and fixing the research). Creating a role for
the ‘research translator’ who “would be adept at speaking the language of both practitioners
and researchers and would be able to translate research findings into a form that is
comprehensible, plausible, and appears potentially fruitful to practitioners, as well as to convey
the interests and concerns of practitioners to researchers” (Hirschkorn & Geelan, 2008, p. 11)
would also be useful.
Of course, meeting these challenges and redefining these roles can only be achieved by no
other than WO Psychologists themselves who ought to be equipped with specific tools. We use
‘tools’ rather than ‘skills’ to emphasize practical immediacy and application in organizational
practice. One of the most important tools in this respect is political acumen. Indeed, “evidence-
based management is an inherently political project” which masks “underlying fundamental
differences of interpretation, purpose, and power among the various stakeholders situated on
both sides of the academic practitioner/policy divide” (Hodgkinson, 2012; p. 404). WO
Psychologists need to “engage in political activity in order to reduce or redirect the influence of
the key stakeholders” (Anderson et al., 2001). As Anderson et al. (2001) observe, the push and
pull between two groups of stakeholders, powerful academics and organizational clients, drives
practitioners towards either pedantic or populist science and away from the ideal of pragmatic
science. By exercising political acumen and taking a more strategic approach to collaboration,
WO Psychologists can help to balance practical relevance with methodological rigour
(Anderson et al., 2001; Buchanan & Badham, 2008; Cascio, 2007).
Furthermore, redistribution of power and influence necessarily involves the development of
communities of practice who can be crucial for translating and adopting research into practice
and for highlighting practical problems to guide research. If participatory action research is
essential for WPI, communities of practice can offer the bridges by which WO Psychologists
can produce knowledge for WPI practice. As Bartunek (2007) notes, “the most frequent means
of creating academic practitioner relationships is through engaged scholarship, or collaborative
research”, which implies “relationships between researchers and practitioners that jointly
produce knowledge that can both advance the scientific enterprise and enlighten a community
of practitioners” (p. 1328). Thus, ‘engaged scholarship’ as a mode of linking research and
practice can both boost the relevance of research to practice and also contribute to enhanced
domain knowledge (Van de Ven, 2007; Van de Ven & Johnson, 2006; also see McKelvey,
2006). Developing communities of practice may be difficult, but it is possible. It may necessitate
aligning researchers’ and practitioners’ disparate beliefs about science and the relevance of the
scientific method for the workplace (McIntyre, 1990). Because WO Psychologists in academic
and applied settings tend to differ in their work values, (Brooks, Grauer, Thornbury, &
Highhouse, 2003), developing communities of practice may also necessitate acknowledging
and being more tolerant of these differences. For example, Brooks et al. (2003) showed that
autonomy and scientific research were more important for academics, whereas affiliation,
money, and a structured work environment were more important for practitioners. By applying
his or her specialised analytical background into real-world practical settings, the experienced
academic practitioner is in a position to appreciate differences in values and priorities, and align
the needs of practice with the values of research.
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Concluding thoughts
There has been increasing concern in WO psychology about the divide between research and
practice, which is clearly evident in the context of WPI. In this essay, we have highlighted a
range of ways to achieve a meaningful and productive engagement between the two. Although
a small minority believe that the researcher practitioner divide is too challenging to bridge (e.g.,
Kieser & Leiner, 2009) or that the scientist-practitioner model too challenging to adopt (e.g.,
Brooks et al., 2003; Murphy & Saal, 1990), we have highlighted many reasons to be optimistic.
As some scholars note, researchers and practitioners are more alike than different (e.g.,
Bartunek & Rynes, 2014) and bridging the gap “is already happening” (Hodgkinson &
Rousseau, 2009). Appreciating the underused potential of WO psychology is essential for
enabling Psychologists to make a unique contribution to WPI practice. Bridging the gap requires
WO Psychologists to further expand their knowledge by learning from other fields such as
business and operations management. Only by embracing an ‘integral perspective’ (De Sitter et
al., 1997; MacDuffie, 1997; van Amelsvoort & Van Hootegem, 2017) can WO Psychologists
become good interlocutors for management, and good service providers for both employees
and managers. Both these key organizational stakeholders can benefit from the WO
Psychologists’ input in order to perform productively in their jobs and, at the same time, enable
healthy and challenging workplaces. Moreover, by offering such input, WO Psychologists can
bring together their natural focus on people and behaviour (i.e., culture and leadership) and
their developing understanding of systems and institutions (i.e., strategy, structure, and power).
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Acknowledgment
Maria Karanika-Murray’s contribution is based on a project supported by the European Union Programme for
Employment and Social Solidarity - PROGRESS (2007-2013) which is implemented by the European
Commission. For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/progress. The information contained in this
publication does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission.
... Workplace innovation (WI) is an area of growing international interest in both government and academia (e.g., Karanika-Murray & Oeij 2017a, 2017bGkiontsi & Karanika-Murray 2015;Eeckelaert, Dhondt, Oeij, Pot, Nicolescu, Trifu, & Webster 2012;Exton & Totterdill 2009;OECD 2010;Pot, Totterdill & Dhondt 2016;Totterdill 2015) reflecting growing policy concerns with skills utilisation, productivity, and competitiveness on the one hand, and with workplace health and well-being, on the other. It is this potential for convergence, as opposed to trade-off, between improved performance and enhanced quality of working life that lies at the heart of WI (Ramstad 2009(Ramstad , 2014Dhondt, van Gramberen, Keuken, Pot, Totterdill & Vaas 2011). ...
... WI is a broad concept that overlaps with organisational and process innovation and draws from a number of disciplines such as HRM, innovation management, and organisational development (Karanika-Murray & Oeij 2017a, 2017b. We adopt the following working definition of WI: "workplace innovations are strategically induced and participatory adopted changes in an organisation's practice of managing, organising and deploying human and non-human resources that lead to simultaneously improved organisational performance and improved quality of working life" (p. ...
... While developments in our ability to measure WI practices are important, it is also important to consider the role of such measurement instruments in the context of the broader debate on the nature of WI. WI is not a checklist of practices but is an inherently social process (Dortmund Brussels position paper on WI 2012; Totterdill, Exton, Exton, & Gold 2012) and demanding in terms of an integrated and successful implementation (Karanika-Murray & Oeij 2017a, 2017b. It involves building skills and competence through creative collaboration and participatory practices grounded in continuing reflection, learning and improvement, which sustain the process of innovation in management, work organisation, and the deployment of technologies. ...
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Despite the popularity of Workplace Innovation (WI) and its demonstrable utility for supporting both organizational productivity and employee well-being, there is at present no reliable and valid measure of WI practices for use in research and workplace settings. The aim of this paper is to present the development of a measure of WI climate.The study involved 855 individuals across all levels of three organizations, and a survey of WI practices that was based on four underlying elements: jobs and teams; organizational structures, management and procedures; employee-driven improvement and innovation; and co-created leadership and employee voice.The original list of items was developed in consultation with employers and practitioners. WI was assessed as climate perceptions. A series of analyses were undertaken on the measure, demonstrating good psychometric properties, including consistency of the factor structure, internal reliability, construct validity, and criterion validity. Support for reliability and validity of the new 19-item measure with four elements is presented. Employees who experienced the four elements of WI climate more positively also enjoyed greater work engagement and job satisfaction, outlining criterion validity of the new measure. The availability of a rigorous and reliable measure of WI climate offers a tool for practitioners and researchers tasked with communicating and promoting WI in diverse workplace settings and with diverse groups of stakeholders. We hope that this new measure of WI will stimulate further research on the role of WI in promoting healthy and productive workplaces.Keywords: workplace innovation; measurement validation; work engagement; job satisfaction
... In our opinion not only structure follows strategy (Chandler, 1962), so does culture; even more, culture follows both strategy and structure. In other words, organisational behaviour can be steered and enabled by managerial choice (Karanika-Murray & Oeij, 2017). ...
... In addition, we like to make clear that involvement is a relational term, related to the strategy and management philosophy of an organisation. It is easy to understand that a top down management philosophy differs from a bottom up management philosophy in the sense that the latter enables a higher level of employee involvement (Karanika-Murray & Oeij, 2017). Recent research showed that limited employee involvement is a barrier to technology adoption (Ediriweera & Wiewiora, 2021). ...
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... Eventually, all approaches support the achievement of 'good jobs' in one way or another. We, however, contend that psychologists underuse their potential for change because their overlooking production and operation management issues, due to a lack of expertise (Karanika- Murray & Oeij, 2017a. ...
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The scientific and non-scientific literature of workplace innovation is reviewed and categorised against the type of research and the level of analysis. A description is provided how the term workplace innovation is interpreted by authors who apply the term. For the distinguished categories of workplace innovation research the prominent representative examples will be described, i.e. research that contributed to the understanding and dissemination of workplace innovation research. While there is much variety in definitions, approaches and applications, models and tool, measurement and operationalisation, the common ground is that workplace innovation is concerned with the ‘advancement of work’ and more of less contributes to a ‘good jobs strategy’. With this in mind the report outlines four social scientific research streams with ‘work’ as a central theme, that are possibly connected to advanced work and good jobs, namely sociology and organisation research, safety science and organisation research, economic strategy and human resources research, and psychology and behavioural research. It is concluded that convergence seems hard from a scientific point of view, but looks desirable from a practical standpoint. After all, nobody is against a high quality of work.
... For instance, hierarchical organisational structures may lead to more directive leadership styles and human resource management (HRM) practices that focus on a clear division of labour and control, whereas less hierarchical structures may lead to leadership styles and HRM practices that are geared at promoting employee involvement, engagement and commitment (MacDuffie, 1997;Pot, 2011). Therefore, to fully understand WPI, it is essential to not only focus on certain types of HRM practices and their consequences but to also take into consideration the organisational structure and the management philosophy underlying strategic choices (Howaldt et al., 2016;Karanika-Murray & Oeij, 2017). ...
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This study investigates the underexplored relationship between mindful organisational infrastructure (psychological safety, team learning, team voice, supportive leadership) and employee innovation adoption, via direct and indirect relationships of organisational mindfulness (a firm’s cultural characteristic that makes employees alert to solve issues and improve effective cooperation). We studied this through a survey among 115 managers/owners of Dutch logistics companies, a sector in which employees’ occupational health, safety and wellbeing (HSW), and sustainability topics are under pressure. The relationships were investigated using path analysis based on linear regression models. Results show that employee innovation adoption was positively related to supportive leadership, and to the presence of organisational mindfulness. The presence of team voice has an indirect relation with employee innovation adoption as it was mediated by organisational mindfulness. These findings suggest that organisations should facilitate team voice and supportive leadership, as well as organisational mindfulness to successfully achieve employee innovation adoption in order to stay innovative and competitive. A future research agenda and implications for practice are discussed.
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Ask me a copy: peter.oeij@tno.nl This is the introduction to this special issue of World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development (WREMSD) dedicated to workplace innovation and social innovation related to work and organisation. As technological and business model innovations alone are not sufficient to enhance opportunities for businesses and employment, awareness is rising that better use should be made of human talents and new ways of organizing and managing. In order to make working environments more receptive for innovation, and to enable people in organisations to take up an entrepreneurial role as intrapreneurs, a shift towards workplace innovation can be observed. Workplace innovation is complementary to technological and business model innovation, and a necessary ingredient for successful renewal, in that it addresses a type of management that seeks collaboration with employees through dialogue and employee engagement. Consequently not only improvements of the quality of work for employees become beckoning perspectives, improving the business is at hand as well through successful innovations in the organisation’s functioning, its culture of cooperation and leadership and the implementation of changes in the domain of HR-practices.
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A workplace innovation (WPI) is a developed and implemented practice or combination of practices that either structurally (through division of labour) or culturally (in terms of empowerment of staff) enable employees to participate in organisational change and renewal and hence improve the quality of working life and organisational performance. This report looks at reasons for enabling WPI, along with its adoption and implementation, and the impacts of it from the viewpoints of the organisation and management, employees and employee representatives. From the database of the third European Company Survey (ECS 2013), some 51 companies were selected from 10 EU Member States in which case studies were undertaken.
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Practitioners find little value in academic research. Some see it as a knowledge flow problem; others see practitioner and academic knowledge as unrelated. Van de Venand Johnson propose a pluralistic collective of researchers and practitioners using "engaged scholarship" and intellectual arbitrage to create practitioner-meaningful research. It's a nice dream, but not a solution; bias, disciplines, and particularism remain. Neither discipline-centric nor practitioner-driven research offers a solution. Earthquake science offers a better model for business school research.
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In this essay we challenge standard approaches to the academic-practitioner gap that essentially pit sides against each other, treating them as dichotomous. Instead, we identify and suggest ways of working with such dichotomies to foster research and theory building. We delineate several tensions associated with the gap, including differing logics, time dimensions, communication styles, rigor and relevance, and interests and incentives, and show how such tensions are valuable themselves for research and theorizing. We show that the gap often reflects views of conflicting groups of academics, while practitioners' voices are not always incorporated; thus we add a practitioner's voice to the conversation. We describe the dialectical forces that foster the tensions associated with the gap, including initiatives of national governments, ranking systems, and special issues of journals. We then show how the tensions represent fundamental, unresolvable paradoxes that can be generative of new research and practice if appreciated as such. We suggest several implications for research that build on tensions, dialectics, and paradox. We conclude with a brief reflection about the tensions we experienced while writing this essay and what these might suggest about the importance of academic-practitioner relationships.
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This chapter argues that evidence-based management is an inherently political project, which risks creating an illusion of rationality, a multilayered façade masking underlying fundamental differences of interpretation, purpose, and power among the various stakeholders situated on both sides of the academic-practitioner/policy divide. To avoid this unfortunate scenario, it needs to accommodate on a more systematic basis the important influence of power and politics in organizational life, rather than downplaying them as it currently does, treating political problems as a minor by-product of an otherwise radical improvement to organizational decision processes. Only then will its advancement accelerate the development of work organizations that are more humane, and more productive, to the benefit of all stakeholders of the modern enterprise.
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The metaphor of boundary is ubiquitous and has guided much research on interpersonal and intergroup communication. This article explores the metaphor by reviewing the literature on boundaries with a focus on miscommunication and problematic talk. In particular, the tensions around privacy and self-disclosure, and rules about family communication are good examples of communication and miscommunication across interpersonal boundaries. In the intergroup arena, the negotiation of boundaries implicates the sociostructural relations between groups and the choices individuals make based on the identities that are salient to them in a given context. We argue that miscommunication can best be conceived of as an indicator of tension in negotiating boundaries as they emerge and change in interaction.
Article
Purpose – This paper aims to introduce the ‘Fifth Element’ as ‘joint intelligence’ shared by all stakeholders in the workplace and at the wider economic and social level, and aimed at closing the evidence-practice gap. Design/methodology/approach – The mutually reinforcing impact of practices based on employee involvement and participation at all levels of an organisation can create a tangible effect in workplaces, which is hard to quantify but which is often described in terms of “culture” and “employee engagement”. Findings – The first four elements comprise Job Design and Work Organisation; Structures and Systems; Learning, Reflection and Innovation; and Workplace Partnership. When these combine successfully, the outcome can be remarkable producing a tangible and sustainable change in the day-to-day culture of an organization, which includes across the board improvements in communications, leadership and employee engagement, higher performance, enhanced customer care and a self-perpetuating regime of innovation. Originality/value – The metaphor of the Fifth Element is a useful way of capturing this essence, describing an alchemic transformation that can only take place when the other four elements combine.