Barriers to Employee Involvement in Incremental Innovation at the Swedish Public Healthcare Organizations
Abstract: Background and purpose: As public organizations are politically governed, the organizations have traditionally been managed from a top-down perspective. Since knowledge intensive organizations have realized employees are the greatest assets, greater emphasis has been devoted towards increased employee empowerment and their ability to contribute to the development of organizations. As the Swedish regions have in their written mission statement that employees should be given the opportunity to contribute to incremental innovation and development, this thesis seeks to find out why this often is not the case, and to identify the main barriers. Methodology: The primary data is collected through semi-structured interviews with innovation experts and employees who have experience of how the Swedish public healthcare works with innovation. The thesis is qualitative in its nature, and as respondents from six different Swedish regions were interviewed, it is a multiple case study. Results: Examining the large amount of empirical data of this thesis, a number of barriers were identified which led to interesting conclusions related to employee inclusion in the Swedish public healthcare. In terms of innovation and development, the six Swedish regions discussed in this thesis, tended to dedicate resources towards innovations that demand great resources but not less resource demanding innovation, referred to in this thesis as incremental innovation. This created barriers to innovation in several areas; first of all, there is a perceived threshold for employees to innovate, as processes are designed for great inventions rather than organizational improvements. Although all types of innovation are important, the regions have largely neglected the potential of incremental innovation in enabling an innovative culture. As an innovative culture is argued to result in greater innovations in the long run, that could be as important as dedicating resources to more radical innovations. Another interesting conclusion was the relative strength of the region of Jönköping with regards to encouraging employees to participate in innovation and development.
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