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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: December 2009

8 - Cultural variations and the morphology of innovation


The relationship between culture and innovation has intrigued researchers for generations. After much research and experimentation, what we know about the relationship is that innovation both shapes and is shaped by culture, and that both culture and innovation can be conceptualized as operating at multiple levels – national, regional, and organizational. We also know that in the management literature, culture has most commonly been conceptualized as an organizational variable – a constellation of norms and values, unique in some respects to every organization, that can, through its influence on the behavior of organizational members, either encourage and facilitate innovation or be an obstacle to it.

The focus in this handbook is on culture, organizations, and work. But what happens when we focus on the adoption and diffusion of innovation and seek to understand the role of culture in that process? We find that research on innovation has generally been concerned with one of two general classes of problems: the production of innovation or the diffusion and adoption of innovation. Culture is frequently invoked by researchers to explain either why one organization produces more innovations than another or why one organization adopts a given innovation whereas another either does not or adopts later than the other. And when managers wish to increase the “innovativeness” of their organizations in either of the senses noted above – production or adoption – they often introduce initiatives designed to change the culture in the belief that the sort of behavioral change they seek will follow. When conceptualized this way, culture is seen primarily as an organizational attribute that varies measurably from one organization to the next.