Professorship of Innovation Research and Sustainable Resource Management, Chemnitz University of Technology (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 1573-1582
ISBN: 978-84-614-7423-3
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Change is everywhere – at least as rhetorics. Change tools are offered everywhere – with guarantee. Real change is really rare. Why? Due to cognitive and volitional barriers? Psychologism is everywhere, either. Does every change project make sense per se? For which ones make failure sense? What prevents organisations from change, what from senseless change? How can we explain inertia, resistance, learning barriers and innovation inabilities beyond the dominating home-made psychologism, and psychologism at all?

We ask and answer questions like that in an empirical project based on the theory of Institutional Reflexivity (Moldaschl 2005, 2006, 2007). This approach is located in the fields of modernization theory, theory of the firm and organization theory. It works with reflexivity as a fundamental category of social science and focuses on dilemmata of organization and innovation, like the one of efficiency and flexibility (or routine and change).

We address innovation capabilities and inabilities on two levels: institutional (systemic) and individual (pragmatic). Applied in economic issues, we conceptualize dynamic capabilities of the firm (absorptive capacity etc.) in terms of institutional reflexivity. In an operationalized form we measure the ability or inability of firms to organize the process of a continuous critical monitoring of internal rules, routines, premises, beliefs and practices, intentions and outcomes. Applied on the individual level, in psychological and pedagogical issues, we conceptualize the ability of individuals to be aware of and to explore undiscovered conditions of action and unintended consequences of intentional behavior (strategies). In combination, one can analyze e.g. management activities on both levels, as shaped by the respective organizational culture (in terms of institutional reflexivity) and as the ability of individual managers or teams to explore the consequences of their activities (e.g. in change contexts), to learn from their effects - or to ignore them.

Empirically, we studied the diffusion and the effects of “reflexive practices” in organizations (private and public) in quantitative surveys as well as in case studies (observation, document analysis, semi-structured expert interviews with promoters and implementers of more or less reflexive practices in knowledge intensive entities of high-tech companies and the automotive industry). Results from both methodologies will be presented. One of our finding supports a methodological insight which was one of the strong premises in the project: “best-practice”-thinking is one of the intellectually most destructive traits, in management as well as in management research.
Barriers of Learning, Innovation Research, Innovation Capability, Sustainable Resource Management, Reflexive Modernisation.