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Employee Driven Innovation in Team (EDIT) – Innovative Potential, Dialogue, and Dissensus

[journal article]

Kristiansen, Marianne; Bloch-Poulsen, Jørgen

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Abstract "The article deals with employee driven innovation in regular teams from a critical, pragmatic action research perspective, referring to theories on innovation, dialogue, workplace learning, and organizational communication. It is based on an action research project “Innovation and involvement through strengthening dialogue in team based organizations” funded by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. 18 teams from one public and two private organizations participated in the project. The article defines the concept of employee driven innovation (EDI) in relation to theories on innovation, workplace learning and action research, and presents EDI as a fairly new field of research. EDI is conceptualized as a participatory endeavour differing from a mainstream understanding of innovation as surplus value for the organization. The article focuses on incremental, organizational process innovations co-created across conflicting workplace interests in and between teams. The article argues that it is meaningful to assert that every employee has an innovative potential, no matter of what educational background or sector and that sometimes, this innovative potential might be facilitated through Dialogic Helicopter Team Meetings (DHTM) with a dissensus approach. During the action research process, it became important to organize a special kind of DHTMs as a supplement to ordinary team action meetings close to day-to-day operations, but separated in time and space. They focus on how to improve existing organizational routines and work practice in order to produce value for the organization, better work flow, and improved work life quality. These meetings are discussed in relation to similar organizational constructs within Scandinavian action research. The action research process made it clear that it is not enough to set up DHTMs if they are going to facilitate EDIT. They must be characterized by a dissensus approach, combining dissensus organizing and dissensus sensibility. Dissensus organizing means that team conversations must be organized in ways where silent or unspoken, critical voices speak up. This can be done by using, e.g., pro and con groups or a bystander. This demands, too, that team members, managers, and action researchers develop dissensus sensibility to open up for more voices, for indirect criticism, and for more democracy in the decision process trying to balance dialogues in multidimensional tensions between consensus and dissensus. The article grounds the complexities of this process in thick presentations of DHTMs in Team Product Support, Danfoss Solar Inverters and Team Children, Citizen Service, the Municipality of Silkeborg, Denmark. It demonstrates how these meetings created different organizational process innovations, and how theoretical concepts like DHTM, dissensus organizing and dissensus sensibility were developed from practice." (author's abstract)
Keywords innovation; employee; dialogue; learning; team; working process; Scandinavia; Denmark; communication; conflict
Classification Sociology of Work, Industrial Sociology, Industrial Relations
Document language English
Publication Year 2010
Page/Pages p. 155-195
Journal International Journal of Action Research, 6 (2010) 2-3
ISSN 1861-1303
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications