What Makes Organizations Embrace or Resist Innovation and Change?

african american female employee

How do those innovative companies do it? They stay on the cutting edge, seem invulnerable to the status quo, and break out of the doldrums of regular old marketplace goings on. We’re getting a few steps closer to understanding how an organization can embrace a culture of change and innovation, and it comes from new research (Lepoutre & Valentine, 2012) conducted on a very traditional market (or institution) that has recently been presented with changes reflecting the global movement toward eco-friendliness, the Beligan horticulture industry.

WHY DO ORGANIZATIONS RESIST CHANGE?

Some organizations have embraced and even sought out change, while others resist it. What makes organizations take the latter approach? The authors identified two types of carriers to which people, and by extension organizations, can become immune: symbolic and material. Symbolic carriers are all of those rules and norms that keep an organization traditional. Material carriers are the routines and systems that function to keep everything the way it always was. The two act together to create stodgy workplaces.

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS

How can organizations get out of this rut? First, it depends on the decision makers in the organization. Some people simply approach the possibility of change differently. People can seek out new challenges and can preemptively accept change so that they can get used to the system before it becomes compulsory, or they can reject everything and stay in a non-innovative state. Similarly, organizations can have processes and mechanisms in place that promote change or not. In all of this, the end goal is to have the kinds of people and the kinds of organizational policies that promote innovation.

 

Lepoutre, J. M. W. N., & Valente, M. (2012). Fools breaking out: The role of symbolic and material immunity in explaining institutional nonconformity. Academy of Management Journal, 55, 285-313.