Hiding in the Frontline Innovation Process
49 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2015 Last revised: 10 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 20, 2020
While frontline workers are an important source of organizational innovation, research presents diverging accounts of disclosure and hiding in the frontline innovation process. This study examines why and how frontline workers hide their innovations, drawing on 32 months of multi-site ethnographic fieldwork in police and military organizations. We identify four distinct sets of hiding practices—complicit hiding, collusive hiding, hiding in plain sight, and evasive hiding—and show how the kinds of hiding practices workers engage in are contingent upon a range of mutually interacting interpretations on the part of innovators. Workers opt to hide a non-trivial innovation if they interpret its development as exceeding their discretion to innovate. If managers are interpreted as ‘Chandlerian’, innovators engage either in complicit or collusive hiding, whereas if managers are interpreted as ‘Weberian’ they engage in hiding in plain sight (for inconspicuous innovations) or evasive hiding (for conspicuous innovations). The necessity of hiding is anticipated as innovations are developed, and the development process affects innovators’ hiding practices. These findings contribute to our understanding of the frontline innovation process and to theories and measurement of organizational innovation, further adding to recent work on the roles and processes of secrecy and hiding in organizational life.
Keywords: Bureaucracy, Innovation, Innovation hiding, Ethnography, Police, Military
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