Collaborative alliances and organisational innovation : a study of the innovation process
Despite the voluminous studies written about organisational innovation over the last 30-40 years our understanding of this phenomenon continues to be inconsistent and inconclusive (Wolfe, 1994). An assessment of the theoretical and methodological issues influencing the explanatory utility of many studies has led scholars (e.g. Slappendel, 1996) to re-evaluate the assumptions used to ground studies. Building on these criticisms the current study contributes to the development of an interactive perspective of organisational innovation. This work contributes empirically and theoretically to an improved understanding of the innovation process and the interaction between the realm of action and the mediating effects of pre-existing contingencies i.e. social control, economic exchange and the communicability of knowledge (Scarbrough, 1996). Building on recent advances in institutional theory (see Barley, 1986; 1990; Barley and Tolbert, 1997) and critical theory (Morrow, 1994, Sayer, 1992) the study aims to demonstrate, via longitudinal intensive research, the process through which ideas are translated into reality. This is significant because, despite a growing recognition of the implicit link between the strategic conduct of actors and the institutional realm in organisational analysis, there are few examples that theorise and empirically test these connections. By assessing an under researched example of technology transfer; the government's Teaching Company Scheme (TCS) this project provides a critique of the innovation process that contributes to theory and our appreciation of change in the UK government's premier technology transfer scheme (QR, 1996). Critical moments during the translation of ideas illustrate how elements that are linked to social control, economic exchange and communicability mediate the innovation process. Using analytical categories i.e. contradiction, slippage and dysfunctionality these are assessed in relation to the actions (coping strategies) of programme members over a two-year period. Drawing on Giddens' (1995) notion of the duality of structure this study explores the nature of the relationship between the task environment and institutional environment demonstrating how and why knowledge is both an enabler and barrier to organisational innovation.