Workplace Innovation in the area of disruptive technologies. Special Issue International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation

2019  – As guest editors, Peter Oeij, Diana Rus, Steven Dhondt and Geert Van Hootegem have composed a special issue of the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Communication, dedicated to Workplace Innovation (WPI) in disruptive technologies.

In the introduction to this volume, the editors state that disruptive technology and the accompanying social transformation require WPI. Socio-organisational elements must be integrated into technological and business model innovation to ensure that these innovations lead to an improvement in the performance of the organisations where they are applied and to a good quality of work, as well as to positive social and labor market effects (inclusive economy).
They do not assume technological determinism, but argue that the process, end-result and effects of new technology are partly determined by social dialogue at company level, in the region, at national and also at EU level. They describe WPI as an integral set of participatory interventions in the structural (organizational design) and cultural (leadership, coordination and behavior) aspects of the organisation and its people.
Research shows that WPI can be a real alternative to technological determinism because it can simultaneously drive technological, economic and social innovation. In this regard, the authors put the following five points on the WPI agenda.
1. More dissemination of existing WPI knowledge to private and public organisations.
. Scaling up and scaling out WPI by ensuring that social-organisational.
issues become part and parcel of technological innovation, business innovation, product or service innovation and of the implementation of new IT policies.
3. Making tools and education widely available via governmental and educational bodies and sectoral organisations.
4. Governmental bodies and/or statistical agencies should start monitoring effects of WPI measures on organizational performance and on the quality of work and employment, the relative share and effects of investments in WPI and the effects on development of craftsmanship, employability and inclusiveness.
5. Determine the right mix of policy to support WPI in practice. Alasoini, from Finland, brings a policy learning model (i.c. a national innovation programme) consisting of four elements: a) interaction of policy areas: innovation, labor relations and R&D; b) a learning attitude towards good practices, monitoring and ideas from local employees; c) participation, consultation and mobilization of representatives at the workplace and at organizational level (social inclusion) and d) money, time and manpower.

The articles
The first article was written by Diana Rus, Peter Oeij, Frank Pot and Peter Totterdill. They outline the European context in which the following articles can be placed. They summarize the state of the art of European WPI politics. They discuss the similarities and differences in various theoretical and practical approaches to WPI as well as the convergence and mutually reinforcing points in policy, theory, empirical and practical approaches, and they bring forward issues for the future.
Rosemary Exton and Peter Totterdill describe in the second article a very practical approach to developing WPI in Scotland. WPI has been adopted by the Scottish government as a key element of its inclusive growth strategy. A pilot project was carried out in this context, the Workplace Innovation Engagement Programme (WIEP). The programme looks for a systematic approach to change and combines formal learning, action learning, individual support for key personnel and external support for dialogue events in the companies. In the paper, Exton and Totterdill evaluate WIEP as a policy intervention and analyse the experiences of the ten companies that formed the first cohort of this programme. They report the following positive results: higher involvement, better leadership and improved management competencies, improvement of change management skills and also tangible economic improvements for the participating companies. They present the lessons learned for future programmes.
In the third contribution, Katarina Putnik, Peter Oeij, Steven Dhondt, Wouter van der Torre and Ernest de Vroome report on research into WPI in the Transport and Logistics sector, which focused on WPI as a strategy to increase employees adoption of innovation. WPI is here primarily conceived as a high degree of autonomy in jobs, high team voice and engaging shop floor personnel in decision making concerning innovation. The result of the research shows that only 10% of companies apply WPI; but at the companies that do, the percentage of employees adopting innovations rises to 90%.
Valentina Patrini and Stavroula Demetriades from EUROFOUND wrote an article about “The human factor in innovation: implications for policies and practices". They analysed the figures from the European Company Survey (ECS) of 10 European countries that have taken measures to stimulate innovation and looked at the effect of workplace practices on innovation. They conclude that stimulating policies at the national (or regional) level tend to focus on technological innovation and neglect organisational innovation and argue that the chances of successful innovation are underused because WPI is underused.
In the last article, Ralf Kopp, Steven Dhondt, Hartmut Hirsch-Kreizen, Michael Kohlgrieber and Paul Preenen argue in favor of combining and integrally applying Sociotechnical System Theory (STS) with WPI. This is the only chance for industrial sectors such as the Logistics and Process industry to implement digitization ánd create skill-oriented work and an work structures that enhance learning opportunities instead of decreasing them. 

‘Workplace innovation in the area of disruptive technologies’. Special Issue, International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation. Peter R.A. Oeij, Diana Rus, Steven Dhondt, Geert van Hootegem (guest editors). Vol. 16, No 3, 2019. Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.


Themes: Dynamic management and Leadership, Innovation and Innovation capacity.
Sector: High tech/smart materials, Logistics, Food processing, IT.
Source: Articles