How firms innovate: exploring the role of language in organizational innovation

Date created: 
Innovation outcomes
Innovation orientation language

While innovation is largely considered an organizational activity, a handful of studies in the organizational literature illustrate that it is individuals who innovate. Despite this, we are still left wondering: What role do individuals play in producing innovation outcomes in organizations? In this dissertation I divided this overarching question into three sub-questions: 1) How do individuals innovate and why do they produce different types of innovation outcomes?; 2) Why do individuals engage in innovation?; 3) Why and how are some ideas shared and developed into innovation outcomes, while others are not? To answer these questions I followed an inductive process; analyzing the interview transcripts of 32 individuals from three high-technology organizations, looking for patterns in the data first before I sought explanations for my findings from the literature. I addressed one question in each of the chapters of my dissertation. I repeatedly found that the individuals in my study fell into two distinct and mutually exclusive groups based on the different words and phrases they employed to talk about innovating. Individuals’ language indicated that each group of individuals approached innovating differently, and thus had different ‘innovation orientations’. I found that each group of individuals was motivated to pursue a different set of goals, which led them to engage in different types of innovation practices and produce different types of innovation outcomes. My findings add to the current conceptualization of innovation as I did not find that individuals’ innovation orientations, the goals they pursued, the innovation practices they engaged in or the innovation outcomes they produced were related to the roles individuals played in the organization or to their training. Furthermore, I found that the nature of the organizational innovation outcome depended on the orientation of the idea’s initiator, and on the initiator’s ability to successfully share the idea with others. My findings suggest that aligning individuals’ roles, tasks and job requirements to their innovation orientations may enable organizational leaders to successfully produce the types of innovation they desire and increase the production of innovation outcomes in the organization.

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Copyright remains with the author. The author granted permission for the file to be printed and for the text to be copied and pasted.
Senior supervisor: 
Daniel Shapiro
Business Administration: Faculty of Business Administration
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.