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Innovating in project-based organizations: patterns of interaction over time
Kedge Business School Marseille.
Kedge Business School Marseille.
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Real Estate and Construction Management, Project Communication.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2309-9958
Uppsala University.
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The construction sector is often identified as less innovative than other industries due to its project-based character and the lack of long-term relationships (Miozzo and Dewick, 2004; Bygballe et al., 2010). Even though individual projects are viewed as innovative arenas for problem solving and creating new ideas and solutions, the latter are however seldom scaled up and turned into widespread innovations (Winch, 2014). According to the IMP literature, this problem originates from the disconnection between the temporary project environment and the permanent organization of firms: project-led learning and solutions are hard to transfer to the wider organization and hence difficult to turn into business learning (Dubois and Gadde, 2002a; Brady and Davies, 2004; Hartmann and Dorée, 2015). This paper addresses this inherent paradox by focusing on the following research question: How can construction firms capitalize on new ideas and solutions across local and global company levels and their temporary and permanent internal networks in generating new innovations?

This paper draws on a critical case (Yin, 2005) in the sense that we use it to “confirm, challenge, or extend” (Yin 2005, p. 40) IMP theory, specifically contributing to innovation in networks (Corsaro et al., 2012). In the case, there are two channels for new idea generation and innovation; one on the local project level and one on the global corporate management level. However, both are “failures” in terms of institutionalization of new knowledge into innovations. The case highlights the mechanisms mobilized by the firm’s staff over a long period (longitudinal perspective) to overcome the disconnections between the local and global firm levels and between its temporary and permanent organizational levels.  It highlights insights regarding the structure and dynamics of internal networks and especially the role of individuals in these networks. Due to the role of individuals and group dynamics in managing tensions, we had to expand the conceptual background from IMP and innovation networks to the community-of-practice lens (Wenger, 1998). This process corresponds to an “abductive” approach to research (Dubois and Gadde, 2002b).

While IMP studies highlight the key role of interaction and high-involvement relationships in innovation processes both for the emergence of new solutions and for supporting their widespread use, few of these studies provide an in-depth analysis of how these learning and innovation processes transcend different organizational levels. In other words, how new solutions move from the project level to the firm level and vice-versa (Bygballe and Ingemansson, 2014). The community-of-practice literature enables us to dig more deeply in these processes by focusing on the individual and group dynamics (shared identity) and hence provides complementary insights to innovation in networks on the “social fabric” of learning and innovation (Wenger, 1998).

The case study is structured around three major paradoxes (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2018) which emerged during the firm’s internal innovation journey and reveals the way these paradoxes have been handled by local and/or global managers. The first paradox deals with the decision regarding the organizational level driving innovation (local versus global leadership), the second deals with the level of standardization or adaptation of the innovation to enhance its widespread use (adaptation to local context versus standardization); the third relates to the decision regarding autonomy versus control of the firm’s staff in the innovation journey.

The results highlight that innovation in construction requires a connecting mechanism between top-down (global firm level) and bottom-up (local firm and project level) processes for idea development to turn into company-wide knowledge and practices. In this regard, communities of practice can play a key role in functioning as “vessels” for ideas and knowledge in both directions. However, while these informal structures are useful in favoring such ideation processes based on informal and emergent mechanisms, they also prove insufficient to turn these innovations into widespread solutions both within and outside the firm. Formal hierarchical structures and business networks are then required facilitate the widespread use of innovations.

REFERENCES

Andriopoulos & Lewis, (2018), “Exploitation-exploration Tensions and Organizational Ambidexterity: managing paradoxes of Innovation”, Organization Science, Vol.20, n°4, pp696-717

Brady, T. and Davies, A. (2004), “Building project capabilities, from exploratory to exploitative learning”, Organization Studies, Vol. 29 No. 9, pp. 1601-1621.

Bygballe, L., Jahre, M., Swärd, A., 2010, Partnering relationships in construction: A literature review, Journal of Purchasing & Supply Management, 16, 239-253.

Bygballe, L. and Ingemansson, M. (2014) The Logic of Innovation in Construction, Industrial Marketing Management, 43:3, pp. 512-524

Corsaro, D, Ramos, C, Henneberg, S. and Naude, P. (2012), “The impact of network configurations on value constellations in business markets – The case of an innovation network”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 41, 54-67.

Dubois, A., & Gadde, L. E. (2002a). The construction industry as a loosely coupled system: implications for productivity and innovation. Construction Management & Economics20 (7), 621-631.

Dubois, A. and Gadde, L. -E. (2002b), “Systematic combining: An abductive approach to case research”, Journal of Business Research, vol. 55, p. 553–560.

Hartmann, A. and Dorée, A. (2015), Learning between projects: More than sending messages in bottles”, International journal of project management, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 341-351.

Miozzo, M. and Dewick, P. (2004), Innovation in Construction. A European Analysis, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., Cheltenham.

Patton, M. Q. 2002. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Winch, G. M. (2014). Three domains of project organising. International Journal of Project Management, 32(5), 721-731.

Yin, R. 2005. Case Study Research. Design and Methods. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-250384OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-250384DiVA, id: diva2:1307871
Conference
IMP Conference
Note

QCR 20190618

Available from: 2019-04-29 Created: 2019-04-29 Last updated: 2019-06-18Bibliographically approved

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Havenvid, Malena Ingemansson

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