Previous research has found that organizational innovations are important for organizations’ long-term competitive advantage and for technical innovations. In spite of this conclusion, organizational innovations remain poorly managed and poorly understood, especially the processes through which organizational innovations are created, diffused, and sustained. There is thus a need for a more comprehensive understanding of mechanisms catalyzing organizational development and change. The purpose of this paper is to develop a comprehensive model for studying and better understanding the creation, diffusion, and sustaining of organizational innovations by using a system perspective. The three concepts “creation,” “diffusion,” and “sustaining” are highly intertwined and should not be explored in isolation, as organizational innovations are constantly being re-invented.
The model for catalyzing organizational development and change could be visualized as five steps that form a circular pattern around an organizational-specific and path-dependent improvement trajectory rather than a single organizational innovation. The five steps are influenced by the external context, the internal environment, and the characteristics of the innovation itself. Further, different diffusion channels such as consultants, universities, and standardization forums function as mechanisms for knowledge transfer and triggering one or several of the five steps. The model is developed based on two literature reviews conducted over a 14-year period and findings from two empirical studies covering four Swedish manufacturing firms and one hospital.
The model proposed here has already been used in practice in a study for the Swedish Innovation Agency VINNOVA. Likewise the model proved to be useful in analyzing both similarities and differences between different national programs for catalyzing organizational development. This comprehensive model, we suggest, has a wider and more general use and is applicable across the Triple Helix model.