Employee-driven innovation in the public sector : At the intersection of innovation support and workplace conditions

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis is to contribute knowledge about employee-driven innovation (EDI), with a particular focus on conditions in the workplace when innovation support is introduced in municipal contexts. The thesis is based on 23 qualitative interviews with managers, employees, and innovation coaches from three municipal sites in Sweden where innovation support has been implemented. The four included studies examine how innovation support is set up, what role first-line managers play, what drives employees to engage in EDI, and the outcomes of innovation work in the studied cases.The thesis’ results show how innovation support was set up as parallel structures operating independently from regular municipal operations, which made it difficult for employees and managers to connect and integrate innovation work with everyday work. Furthermore, the results show how the studied municipalities did not define clear objectives for working with innovation, which in turn resulted in a multitude of inextricably linked negative effects for the innovation support operations, the managers, the employees, and the outcome of the innovation work. In addition, the study results demonstrate the importance of providing rich environments for learning and innovation in the workplace, to consider and support employee engagement in public sector innovation and to support the entire innovation process, including the implementation phase.   The first conclusion drawn is that employee-driven innovation work happens at the intersection of innovation support and current workplace conditions. This implies that support measures need to be integrated into employees’ everyday work to create favourable conditions for EDI. The second conclusion is that it is imperative for municipal organisations intending to support EDI to define objectives for working with innovation and to anchor and communicate these objectives throughout the organisation. 

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