Good Suggestion - But No! Innovation as the Struggle Between Different Roles and Perceptions in a Municipal Organisation

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Kjersti Isaksen


Collaboration has been increasingly recognised as a key for enhancing capacity, effectiveness, and spurring innovation in the public sector. The purpose of this paper is to study empirically how different perceptions and roles within an organisation handle a proposal from strategic management related to engaging a large municipality in collaboration with social entrepreneurs. The primary focus of attention is middle managers, as they stand out as a central counterpart to the administrative and political leadership. The data collection included in-depth interviews, observation and documents. An abductive analysis that combined empirical findings with theoretical insights showed that middle managers controlled positional and professional power bases, enabling them to block the formal lines of authority. The paper contributes to view innovation as a part of the struggle between different roles and perceptions within an organisation and to an explanation for the outcome resulting from different power bases.

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