Perspectives on innovation in organisation theory

Adoption of innovation has long been studied and covered extensively in the literature. Although these studies are strong in identifying theoretical foundations, factors, players, organisational structure, and how these factors influence adoption of innovation in an organisation, and provide a comprehensive coverage of the topic, there is still a need to take a fresh, systematic look at the literature to map and structure the vast amount of information it provides. A few studies have proposed frameworks to analyse the literature such as the dichotomy of variance research and process research (King 1990), the distinction between diffusion, determinants, and process research (Wolfe 1994), and roles and the interaction between individual and organisation (Slappendel 1996). Rogers (1995) stated that diffusion of innovation involved a social system, where the elements within that system interact in the adoption process. Slappendel’s framework is the only one that takes a different perspective of the interaction between individual and structure. The paper also contains a comprehensive literature review to support the findings (Kautz and Nielsen 2004). Therefore, we believe that it is the most appropriate framework to analyse the literature on adoption of innovation. The other frameworks did not provide as complete a set of perspective as Slappendel’s. Slappendels framework looks at an individual perspective, organisation perspective, and interactive process perspective (Slappendel 1996; Kautz 2004; Kautz and Nielsen 2004). The other frameworks only provided either individualist perspectives (for example Iacovou, Benbasat et al. 1995; Elliot 1996; Thong and Yap 1996; Fink 1998; Thong 1999; Utomo and Dodgson 2001) or structuralist perspectives (for example Premkumar and Ramamurthy 1995; Thong and Yap 1995; Yao, Xu et al. 2003; Bagchi, Hart et al. 2004; Gefen, Rose et al. 2005). Only Slappendel’s framework provided the interactive process model (Kautz and Nielsen 2004). This model views innovation as a dynamic phenomenon, therefore the adoption of innovation (in this article IT) is also a dynamic phenomenon.

Slappendel’s framework identified three perspectives on innovations studies: individualist, structuralist, and interactive process. The elements of the framework are illustrated in Table 1.

Slappendel (1996) also suggested the use of case research and case histories as a research methodology to investigate the adoption of innovation from the interactive process perspective. Slappendel’s framework is also supported by the perspectives of individual behaviour in an organisation or organisational behaviour. A model of organisational behaviour contingency shows the development of organisational behaviour as individual, group, and organisational systems, as depicted in Figure 1 (Robbins 2003). The contingency theory of organisational behaviour recognises that an organisation is situated in an environment and consists of individuals who interact with each other within groups.

Individualist Structuralist Interactive Process
Basic assumptions Individuals cause innovation Innovation is determined by structural characteristics Innovation is produced by the interaction of structural influences and the action of individuals
Conceptualis­ations of an innovation Static and objectively defined objects or practices Static and objectively defined objects or practices Innovations are subject to reinvention and reconfiguration. Innovations are perceived
Conceptualis­ations of an innovation process Simple linear, with focus on the adoption stage Simple linear, with focus on the adoption stage Complex process
Core concepts Champion, leader, entrepreneur Environment, size, complexity, differentiation, formalisation, centralisation, strategic type Shocks, proliferation, innovative, capability, context
Research methodology Cross-sectional survey Cross-sectional survey Case studies, case histories

Table 1. Slappendel’s framework (Slappendel 1996)

Robbins (2003)

Figure 1. Contingency model of Organisational Behaviour (Robbins 2003)

With this model as a guide, it is understandable that the study of adoption of innovation takes different perspectives within an organisation according to the organisation’s building blocks (Slappendel 1996), rather than process research, diffusion, and determinants (King 1990; Wolfe 1994).


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