57 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2008
Date Written: July 21, 2005
While scholarly research has produced a great deal of useful knowledge about various forms of innovation, there has been very little attention given to the dynamics of management innovation - the implementation of a new management practice, process or structure that significantly alters the way in which the work of management is performed, and is intended to further organizational goals. In this paper we address this gap in research by focusing on two questions. First, what is the nature of management innovation? How can we categorize or make sense of the enormous variety of management innovations that exist, and how can we distinguish management innovation from related concepts, such as management fashion and process innovation? Second, what are the causes of management innovation? What are the conditions that lead management innovation to transpire, and to what extent can these be recreated in contemporary settings?
Building on Abrahamson's (1996) theory of management fashion, we develop a model of management innovation in which we focus on the role of middlemen we call management innovators who intervene in the market for management ideas and practices. Rather than simply encouraging the adoption of techniques that are being pushed by "managerial fashion setters" these management innovators seek to combine new ideas from various sources and adapt them to the specific needs of users. Viewed in this way, management innovations are never entirely new creations, but they involve some element of novelty in combination with ideas and practices taken from a number of different sources. This model complements Abrahamson's work, in that it helps to explain how management innovations first take shape, whereas Abrahamson focuses on the process through which certain management innovations become management fashions. We develop a set of propositions concerning the facilitating conditions under which management innovations would be likely to transpire, and we highlight the critical role of the management innovator as the catalyst for the entire process. Finally, we put forward a research agenda to further our understanding of management innovation.
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