Journal of Management & Governance

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 525–556

With a view to make things better: individual characteristics and intentions to engage in management innovation

Authors

  • Jennifer Kunz
    • Goethe-University
    • ESSEC Business School
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10997-013-9280-7

Cite this article as:
Kunz, J. & Linder, S. J Manag Gov (2015) 19: 525. doi:10.1007/s10997-013-9280-7
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Abstract

Management innovations increasingly attract interest from both scholars and practitioners. However, few writers have studied the role of individuals in inventing and implementing management innovations. In particular, little is known about individual-level factors that can be put under scrutiny in personnel recruitment processes and which can be expected to drive individuals’ intention to engage in recognizing and championing opportunities for management innovations. We develop a set of hypotheses on the role of individuals’ needs for achievement, needs for power, and attitudes to change and risk in determining their intention to engage in management innovation behavior and put these hypotheses under empirical scrutiny.

Keywords

Management innovationNeed for achievementNeed for powerAttitudesPersonnel selection

1 Introduction

Management innovations are novel changes in processes and structures of managing (Birkinshaw et al. 2008; Hamel 2006), such as the introduction of new project management practices, new human resource management or management control processes, or changes to the allocation of decision rights. In contrast to technological process innovations, for example, the introduction of CAD software in product design, management innovations are thought to be more embedded into the organizational structure and culture and therefore harder to imitate—thus constituting a particularly important source of competitive advantage to firms (Barney 1991; Foss et al. 2012; Harder 2011; Teece and Pisano 1994). Not surprisingly, they increasingly attract interest from both scholars and practitioners (Birkinshaw et al. 2008).

Extant research focuses on socioeconomic conditions (e.g., Teece 1980; Burns and Wholey 1993), demand for and supply of “managerial fashions” (e.g., Abrahamson 1991; Malmi 1999), and organizational factors, such as firm size, organization culture and power relations, as factors in explaining management innovations (e.g., Burns and Scapens 2000; Vaccaro et al. 2012). In contrast, few writers have studied the role of individuals in inventing and implementing management innovations.

Yet, from an ontological perspective, it is individuals who act, not organizations (Coleman 1990; Felin and Foss 2005; Johnson et al. 2007). Explanations that remain on the industry or firm-level (the “macro-level”)—like for example, a supportive organizational culture leading to more management innovations by the firm—are only shorthand for a more complicated multi-level explanation (Foss et al. 2010). Moreover, individuals differ from each other in their characteristics—such as needs, attitudes, abilities, and knowledge (e.g., Bowman and Ambrosini 2000; Felin and Hesterly 2007; Foss and Klein 2010; Shane 2000). Heterogeneity in these characteristics between firms can therefore explain differences in the level of management innovation experienced by firms. Hence, the current dearth of research studying the role of individuals, their characteristics, and how they are influenced by and again impact on macro-level factors, is dissatisfying.

This even more so since all studies that focus on an individual-level so far have either concentrated on firm-external agents, such as consultants (e.g., Benders and van Veen 2001; Stjernberg and Philips 1993), or have seen the managers of firms as rational, active agents and their subordinate employees as being passive, potentially even resisting to managers’ well-intended innovations in management practices (e.g., Abernathy and Bouwens 2005; Chandler 1962; Damanpour 1987). While this characterization of managers and employees may in some cases be appropriate, it is likely to be too black-and-white to capture reality of businesses today in a comprehensive manner.

Often employees are exposed most prominently in their daily operational work to the (in-)efficiencies of managerial practices and processes (Burns and Vaivio 2001). Therefore, they are in a good position to identify and suggest innovative changes. This even more so as innovations in management practices are likely to require less specialized knowledge than, for example, technological process innovations. On a related matter, broad streams within the literatures on product innovation, organizational change and corporate entrepreneurship point to the role of individual employees as recognizers and promoters of innovation and entrepreneurial ideas (e.g., Burgelman and Grove 2005; Dutton et al. 2001; Howell and Higgins 1990; Shane 1995). It thus seems promising to include employees as active agents in the discussion of management innovation, too.

With the present paper we thus aim to further the understanding of management innovation by a study of management innovation from a broad individual-level perspective, which allows both managers as well as employees to be active agents in management innovation.

We focus on individual-level factors that can be put under scrutiny in personnel recruitment processes and which can be expected to drive individuals’ intention to engage in recognizing and championing opportunities for management innovations. Knowledge about the role of a key set of readily assessable individual characteristics—the needs and attitudes of a person—in explaining the intention to engage in management innovation allows firms to fine-tune their recruitment practices.

The present paper therefore develops a set of hypotheses on the role of individuals’ needs for achievement, needs for power, and attitudes to change and risk in determining their intention to engage in management innovation behavior. Whereas it seems likely that these factors will play a role for individuals more generally—that is for both managers and employees—we focus on the case of young, mostly first-time job seekers and test our hypotheses using a sample generated from 84 graduate students.

As indicated before, employees so far have been entirely sidelined in the discussion on management innovation and thus generating insights on them seems of particular interest to foster a more balanced view of managers and employees as active agents. Therefore, understanding whether readily assessable individual characteristics impact on these prospective employees’ intention to engage in management innovation is likely to significantly help practitioners. And in fact, the results of our study indicate that personal characteristics are indeed likely to influence individuals’ intention to engage in management innovation—at least for the case of young, first-time job seekers. Firms’ personnel selection processes thus might be a simple way of fostering management innovation through the recruitment of applicants who are—given their characteristics—most likely to engage in innovating management practices.

The paper adds to the literature in at least three ways. First, we show that individuals’ needs and attitudes are important antecedents of their intention to engage actively in management innovation. We thereby advance the understanding of management innovation from a micro- or individual-level perspective. Whereas large parts of the extant literature concentrate on the industry- or firm-level aspects of management innovation, a micro-level perspective opens up personnel selection as a hitherto overlooked lever that management can pull to foster management innovation and follows the ontological insight, that it is individuals who act, not organizations as such.

Second, we contribute an empirical measurement instrument that should facilitate future investigations into the antecedents of management innovation behavior. To our best knowledge, we provide the first measurement instrument for capturing individuals’ intentions to engage in management innovation behavior. Intentions are an important mediating variable between an individual’s needs, attitudes, or the situational conditions an individual is exposed to, and the person’s actual (i.e., observable) behavior (Ajzen and Fishbein 1980; Ajzen 1988). Thus, while our measurement instrument undoubtedly merits further refinement in future research, we provide a first means for better empirically studying the causal chain leading to an individual’s observable management innovation behavior.

Third, to our best knowledge, the paper is the first one to view employees’ role in management innovation not only as one of passive agents. We aim at triggering more research that allows employees to be active agents and thus at arriving at a more balanced investigation of the individuals involved in management innovation.

2 Theoretical background and hypotheses

2.1 Management innovation

Several authors have recently stressed the potentially huge role of innovative changes in how firms are managed as a field meriting more research attention (e.g., Birkinshaw et al. 2008; Foss et al. 2012; Gebauer 2011; Hamel 2006). Such management innovations create value by coordinating and motivating an organizations’ stakeholders in novel ways (Foss et al. 2012) and are hard to imitate due to a highly systemic nature (Harder 2011; Meeus and Edquist 2006). Examples of management innovations are the multi-divisional form of organizational structure initially developed in the 1920s at DuPont and GM, the “spaghetti organization” of radical empowerment and delegation invented by Oticon, balanced performance measurement through the Balanced Scorecard spearheaded at Scovill Corp. and John Deer Components, the management without budgets at Svenska Handelsbanken, the sophisticated pay-for-performance remuneration scheme of workers at Lincoln Electric, and concepts relating to learning organizations or lean management (e.g., Birkinshaw et al. 2008; Foss et al. 2012; Gebauer 2011). Management innovations, however, do not cover all kinds of innovation that an organization develops (including new products or services and technological process innovations)—as is sometimes the case when literature explores so-called organizational innovations (Birkinshaw et al. 2008).

In a recent review of the literature on management innovation, Birkinshaw et al. (2008) identified four streams: (1) a perspective looking at the institutional and socioeconomic conditions that give rise to the emergence and diffusion of such innovations among firms (e.g., Teece 1980; Burns and Wholey 1993; Nickel et al. 2001; Ax and Bjørnenak 2005), (2) a fashion perspective focusing on how aspects of supply and demand for management ideas affect their propagation (e.g., Abrahamson 1991; Malmi 1999; Staw and Epstein 2000), (3) an organizational and cultural perspective that asks how such innovations shape and are shaped by conditions inside an organization (e.g., Burns and Scapens 2000; Damanpour 1987; Vaccaro et al. 2012; Zbaracki 1998), and (4) a rational perspective that looks into the role of individual managers in inventing and implementing new managerial practices.

This latter stream of research highlights, among others, managerial tenure as an important factor explaining managers’ engagement in management innovation (e.g., Kimberly and Evanisko 1981; Naranjo-Gil et al. 2009). Similarly, managers’ attitudes seems to be important, too (e.g., Damanpour 1991). While this streams corresponds to the ontological call for studies to dig deeper than the industry- or firm-level outlined earlier, surprisingly little publications fall within its realms. Moreover, the scarce literature in this stream either looks only at firm-external players (such as consultants) or adopts a manager-oriented perspective with employees as passive agents (e.g., Abernathy and Bouwens 2005; Chandler 1962; Damanpour 1987). For example, Chandler’s (1962) description of the introduction of the M-form structure at GM is clearly written from a manager-oriented lens with Alfred Sloan as the driver of this particular management innovation. Whereas (top-) managers may in-deed often be the ones triggering management innovation, the focus of the extant literature seems too narrow—both when considering the fact that employees are exposed most prominently in their daily operational work to the (in-) efficiencies of current managerial practices and processes (Burns and Vaivio 2001) and when considering insights from related literatures.

For example, the literature on championing and promotion of product innovations observes that the successful introduction of an innovation requires people who are capable of overcoming barriers (Schon 1963; Howell and Higgins 1990; Fichter 2009). This can be done in at least three ways: by means of sheer hierarchical power, by means of expert power—i.e., by a person’s superior expertise on a certain field (e.g., Witte 1977), or by process promotion that diminishes the obstacles of “non-responsibility and indifference, which are primarily caused by organizational and administrative resistance to a new idea” (Hauschildt and Kirchmann 2001: 42). Individuals may thus either play the role of power, expert or process promoters. The role of a power promoter depends on his hierarchical position; the two other roles are more open in the sense that they may well be played by “ordinary” employees. A managerial position is not necessary. Rather one may even expect employees to be in a particularly good position for the expert role as they are likely to be even closer to changes in market conditions than many managers are. Moreover, employees without official hierarchical power can also accumulate a high degree of organizational knowledge, e.g., through a long job tenure. Such knowledge allows playing a role as process promoter (Hauschildt and Kirchmann 2001). Following literature on product innovation, managers as well as employees thus can play important roles as champions of a new idea (e.g., Axtell et al. 2000; Howell et al. 2005; Dodgson et al. 2008) and personal characteristics have been found to be antecedents of an individual’s engagement in product championing behavior (e.g., Shane 1995; Axtell et al. 2000).

Research on organizational change also acknowledges that the classical picture of employees being passive or even resistant agents is not sufficient (Dutton et al. 2001). Moreover, some authors within organizational change explicitly point to an active role played by organizational members below the level of senior management in initiating change (e.g., Frohman 1997; Clarke and Meldrum 1998; Morrison and Phelps 1999; Zhou and George 2001). For example, Morrison and Phelps (1999) find individual characteristics such as self-efficacy beliefs and expert knowledge to be key individual-level factors driving employees’ engagement in organizational change behavior. Similarly, a study by Parker et al. (2006) points to the role of blue-collar employees’ personal characteristics.

Whereas literature on management accounting change offers little systematic analysis of how and why individuals behave differently with respect to such innovations (Chenhall and Euske 2007), it nevertheless stresses the important role of employees in introducing innovative management control or performance management practices (Bougen 1989; Chenhall and Langfield-Smith 2003; Ezzamel et al. 2004). For example, employees are suggested to be most prominently exposed in their daily work to the (in-)efficiencies of existing management accounting practices and processes, and hence in an ideal position for devising innovative new ones (Burns and Vaivio 2001).

Research into corporate entrepreneurship also points to the role of individuals and their characteristics in identifying new opportunities and successfully promoting them within their organizations (e.g., Bower 1970; Burgelman and Grove 2005; Holt et al. 2007b). Moreover, it stresses that not only top- or middle-level managers may engage in activities that renew organizations, but that front-line managers and employees are likely to play crucial roles, too (e.g., Burgelman 1983).

In sum, this suggests two conclusions: First, that research in management innovation may benefit from a stronger consideration of an individual-level or micro-level perspective. Second, while managers doubtlessly play an important role in deciding whether or not to adopt an innovative practice, based on research in related fields, employees are likely to be information gatherers and champions of changes in management practices, too. The terms managerial and management in management innovation thus do not indicate a particular agent group as locus of innovative action,1 but rather the object that undergoes innovative change: management practices. A key prerequisite to management innovation from an individual-level perspective is to have individuals motivated to engage actively in change efforts (Gebauer 2011). Hiring and retaining the “right” kind of individuals—for example, the “right” first time job-seekers, thus might be a powerful way of enhancing the management innovation experienced by a particular firm.

Obviously, (prospective) employees’ active role in management innovation can be analyzed from a number of different perspectives. Here, we follow an analysis of individuals’ needs and attitudes. Both needs and attitudes are central to human behavior and reasonably assessable in recruitment processes, thus offering a promising lever for research into management innovation with significant potential for practice implications.

2.2 Individual characteristics as antecedents of management innovation

Management innovation activities can be expected to be of a similar nature as an employee’s activities in innovation processes in general (in product innovations as described e.g., by Scott and Bruce 1994; Axtell et al. 2000)—that is to center on information collection and idea generation, championing these ideas up the hierarchical ladder, and implementation of ideas that were accepted (Gebauer 2011; Birkinshaw et al. 2008).

These activities are influenced by the current conditions surrounding an individual. Prior research on management innovation has pinpointed, among others, to the role of an organization’s culture and power relations (e.g., Zbaracki 1998), span of control (Damanpour 1987); its size and market scope (Damanpour 1987; Mol and Birkinshaw 2009; Vaccaro et al. 2012), the economic and competitive situation of a firm or organization (e.g., Baines and Langfield-Smith 2003; Nickel et al. 2001), the centralization of decision authority (Abernathy and Bouwens 2005; Thompson 1965), the design of internal labor markets (Foster and Ward 1994), the degree of formalization of work rules and structures (Thompson 1965), availability of slack resources (Rosner 1968), vertical differentiation (Hull and Hage 1982), the proportion of degree-holding personnel (Mol and Birkinshaw 2009), and the amount of outside inspiration for innovation or promotion of adoption of new practices (e.g., Abrahamson 1991; Ax and Bjørnenak 2005).

Besides these conditions, however, innovation activities are likely to be influenced by an individual’s psychological characteristics. The research on management innovation suggests that managers’ favorable attitude towards change fosters innovation (e.g., Damanpour 1991). Managerial tenure also seems important (e.g., Kimberly and Evanisko 1981; Naranjo-Gil et al. 2009). While the former obviously refers to an individual’s psychological characteristics, the latter also can be traced back to them—negative attitudes to change and new ideas as well as a fear of losing power are likely to be less pronounced among younger managers (Naranjo-Gil et al. 2009). Similarly, the striving for achievement seems to drive changes in planning and budgeting processes (de Waal and Hermkens-Janssen 2007). Consequently, an individual’s psychological characteristics seem to play—at least at the managerial level—a distinct role, one that is clearly distinguishable from the conditions surrounding that individual. It is reasonable to assume that the same holds true for individuals more generally—and thus to be relevant for the wise selection of first-time job seekers.

Individuals’ characteristics are also highlighted in research on related topics, such as product innovation, creativity, voicing, corporate entrepreneurship, and organizational change. Since a review of these broad and rich streams of research is beyond the scope of the present paper, we can mention only some examples. Shalley et al. (2004) and Rank et al. (2004) cite the role of personality factors and cognitive styles in creative behavior. Scott and Bruce (1994) highlight individual problem-solving styles; Frohman (1997) suggests attitudes as important drivers of personal initiative to trigger change, and Axtell et al. (2000) and Oldham and Cummings (1996) highlight self-efficacy and self-confidence. Motivation has been mentioned as a key ingredient in bringing about such behaviors by many authors (e.g., Amabile 1996; Frohman 1997; Vithessonthi and Schwaninger 2008). Moreover, the literature on champions of innovations mentions the importance of personal characteristics in inducing innovative behavior (e.g., Schon 1963; Shane 1995; Howell 2005). Shane (1995), for example, identifies a negative influence of uncertainty avoidance on championing of innovations and Howell and Higgins (1990) show that champions are more risk-taking and more strongly motivated by needs for achievement than are non-champions.

As this discussion highlights, individuals’ characteristics are likely to influence their intentions to engage in management innovation. In the following we will therefore develop and empirically test a parsimonious model of some of individuals’ characteristics: its needs for achievement and power as well as its attitudes. Needs for achievement and for power have been shown to play an extraordinary important role in the behavior of individuals within organizations (McClelland and Burnham 2003). Likewise, attitudes towards change and towards risk have repeatedly been highlighted in management literature. They can be expected to play a moderating role between the motivational impetus created by an individual’s needs and the actual behavioral intention (e.g., Miner and Dachler 1973; Triandis 1977). As needs and attitudes thus are important for the explanation of individuals’ intentions and as both can be assessed reasonably well during recruitment processes, we will focus on these in the following.

2.3 Hypotheses

The need for achievement describes an internal drive of an individual to do things better than before. McClelland (1987: 249) termed it an “efficiency motive” because doing something better involves efficiency calculations (ibid.). Hence, this need should motivate an individual to improve processes and to look for constantly better performance. Consequently, McClelland (1987: 249) suggests that individuals with a strong need for achievement “should be more likely to seek out information to find better ways of doing things.” While this can be achieved to a certain extent through incremental optimization of existing practices, declining marginal returns of further optimization efforts will eventually entice an individual to engage in activities required for management innovations. In line with this reasoning, McClelland (1987: 249) postulates that individuals high in need of achievement “should be more innovative.” Similarly, Frohman (1997) offers anecdotal evidence that individuals driving bottom-up organizational change efforts are motivated by the striving for optimizing practices. Finally, Howell and Higgins (1990) found a moderately significant but higher need for achievement among technological champions than among non-champions, additionally suggesting a positive relationship between this need and the willingness to foster innovation. Our first hypothesis thus is:

Hypothesis 1

The stronger the need for achievement, the greater the intention to innovate managerial practices.

An individual’s need for power designates her wish to have an impact, to be strong and influential (McClelland and Burnham 2003). The strength of this need depicts an individual’s sensitivity to power-related stimuli from the environment and his strive for acquiring influence, status, prestige or the like (McClelland 1987). Yet, besides the wish to increase one’s power, the need for power is also affected by the anxiety of losing one’s power (Schmalt and Heckhausen 2010). Individuals in an organization currently holding a position that entails considerable power—such as a firm’s middle and senior managers—may thus be torn between the wish to increase their power by changing the status quo and preserving their “turf”. Outsiders, such as a new CEO, new job applicants, or consultants brought into the organization have “less to lose” and can thus be expected to be more likely to focus on striving to increase power by initiating changes. This even more so, if one follows the idea of French and Raven (1959) about multiple bases of power. Besides the wish to gain additional influence through a change in the “rules of the internal game”, one could imagine this part of the need of power to be satisfied through innovation if individuals acquired “expert power” or if they triggered a change in the rules of how the organization plays, thus “leaving an impact.” Since power is a great motivator (McClelland and Burnham 2003), satisfying her needs for power should play an important role in enticing an individual to innovate management practices, if these innovations are likely to increase her power. This leads to our second hypothesis:

Hypothesis 2

The stronger the need for power, the larger the intention to innovate managerial practices.

Attitudes are evaluations of certain objects (e.g., actions, types or outcomes of behavior) with respect to the satisfaction or frustration of a person’s needs (Ajzen 1988; Crawford et al. 2002). If an object is experienced or considered useful in satisfying the individual’s needs, a positive attitude towards the object will result; if the person experiences or judges the object as irrelevant or even counterproductive to satisfying his needs, a negative attitude will be learnt (e.g., Crawford et al. 2002). Attitudes interact with needs in influencing a person’s motivation to behave in a certain way (e.g., Miner and Dachler 1973; Triandis 1977). The economic and business literature considers two of these attitudes (although not always referred to as such) as important in designing organizational measures and management in general: attitudes to risk and attitudes towards new ideas or change.

The prior ones describe the way that a person evaluates risk: While risk-averse individuals have a negative attitude towards uncertainty, risk seeking ones consider uncertainty a chance and look for risks. Risk neutrality is located between risk avoidance and risk seeking. Such differences in attitudes to risk have been found to be quite pronounced (e.g., Harrison et al. 2007).

Similarly, an individual’s attitudes to new ideas or change fall along a continuum from positive—sometimes referred to as “openness to change”– to negative—which are discussed explicitly or implicitly in the burgeoning literature on overcoming “resistance to change” (see e.g., Kotter 1995; Strebel 1996; Piderit 2000). In comparison to the literature on attitudes to risk, the literature on attitudes to change has spawned a plethora of concepts: some complementary and others partially competing. Regardless of the concept, the empirical evidence suggests that attitudes to change, new ideas, or innovation in general play an important role in determining an individual’s behavior vis à vis changes in his environment. Change is perceived differently by different employees and by different levels of the hierarchy. In the practitioner-oriented literature, employees are believed to view change as disruptive and intrusive (e.g., Strebel 1996). In the following, we will build on the assumption that attitudes to change fall along a continuum from very negative to very positive.

Research has pointed out that negative attitudes to an object are likely to influence the evaluation of that object by increasing an individual’s awareness of its negative, disliked aspects. Consequently, a risk-averse person will likely devalue information drawing a more positive picture of uncertainty. As innovative behavior entails abandoning traditional approaches and thus can be linked to risks for the person if the individual fails (Zhou and George 2001), a risk-averse individual will be less inclined to engage in management innovations than someone who holds a positive attitude. Both prior anecdotal evidence on individual bottom-up change management behavior (Frohman 1997) and large-scale research on the role of employee characteristics in firms’ R&D activities (Sauermann and Cohen 2010) support this reasoning. Moreover, Howell and Higgins (1990) found a highly significant difference in willingness to assume risk between individuals who presented innovative ideas to their superiors and those who did not.

Following research on attitudes (e.g., Triandis 1977; Aronson et al. 2004), one would expect that a negative attitude towards risk and a negative attitude towards change would diminish an individual’s motivation to innovate management practices. The same holds true in an opposite way if he has a very favorable attitude towards uncertainty and new ideas.

This brings us to the following hypotheses about the moderating influence of individuals’ attitudes to risk and change on their intention to engage in management innovation activities triggered by the needs for achievement and power.

Hypothesis 3

Positive attitudes to new practices positively moderate the relationship between an individual’s need for achievement and the intention to innovate managerial practices.

Hypothesis 4

Positive attitudes to new practices positively moderate the relationship between an individual’s need for power and the intention to innovate managerial practices.

Hypothesis 5

High risk aversion negatively moderates the relationship between an individual’s need for achievement and the intention to innovate managerial practices.

Hypothesis 6

High risk aversion negatively moderates the relationship between an individual’s need for power and the intention to innovate managerial practices.

Figure 1 depicts the expected relationships.
https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1007%2Fs10997-013-9280-7/MediaObjects/10997_2013_9280_Fig1_HTML.gif
Fig. 1

Hypotheses

3 Methods

3.1 Method

Given our research interest in the internal person-related factors influencing prospective employees’ intention to engage in management innovation, a vignette study seemed particularly attractive. The layout of vignette studies somewhat resembles that of “classical” surveys, but provides along with the common Likert scales used for data collection some descriptions of stylized business situations to participants (Alexander and Becker 1978). This design has several advantages—especially if study participants are exposed to multiple different vignettes.

Field surveys are characterized by a high degree of situational complexity, which makes it difficult to control for all potentially relevant situational factors, i.e., to carve out the person-specific factors. This may lead to unintentionally tainted results, which are difficult if not impossible to assess. This is a particularly serious limitation if the knowledge of the influencing factors is still far from complete—as in the case of management innovations (cf. Gebauer 2011). Many field surveys try to compensate for this danger by including a large number of control variables. This, however, can make answering the survey quite cumbersome and tiring for participants and thus compromise the quality of responses. An alternative solution is to use a method that controls for the situational factors by providing a standardized situation (or vignette) as a cue that participants should keep in mind while answering the survey. The situational variables provide participants with a “controlled” understanding.

Such an approach has been suggested, for example, when dealing with individuals from different countries or cultures (King et al. 2004). Obviously, this approach raises the question of which situation to pick as the choice of a particular situation might also affect results. One solution is to administer a balanced set of deliberately varied situations, which are distributed randomly among the study participants. The random allocation of a set of balanced situational stimuli (positively, neutral and negatively framed) minimizes the risk of biasing results due to a particular situational constellation and thus helps to single out the person-related variables.

In addition, assigning respondents vignettes instead of asking them for responses based on their actual situation is likely to reduce socially desirable responses (Rossi and Anderson 1982). Since innovations are considered to be positive, the benefit of vignette studies seems particularly valuable for this research topic.

Some studies have already shown the large potential of vignette studies in uncovering and explaining individual-level factors, like motivation or individual decision making biases (e.g., Elsbach and Elofson 2000; Kunz and Linder 2012; Weibel et al. 2010). Moreover, some recent evidence suggests that the method provides for ecologically valid data (e.g., Eifler 2007; Linder 2010).

Since we are interested in the role of needs and attitudes as separate from the situation and given the dangers of socially tainted responses for topics related to innovation, a within-study-participant analysis based on multiple vignettes per person seems ideally suited to filter out the impact of needs and attitudes from the impact of the different situations.

3.2 Data

The participants in the study were graduate students in business administration at a prominent business school in Denmark. We opted for a sample of students since we are interested in whether their needs and attitudes are predictors of their engagement in management innovation activities—and hence, whether assessments of such needs and attitudes during recruiting processes would provide firms with a lever for fostering the level of management innovation activities exhibited by selecting the “right” hires.

Hence, the findings might only apply to student applicants for jobs, not to older applicants or to people from a blue-collar background. Likewise, they may not necessarily generalize to managerial samples. However, many of the students work part time for the firm that they hope will hire them upon graduation. The students thus are likely to also be reasonably representative of young professionals with an academic background who are already employed and are applying to other firms.

Participants were instructed to think of themselves as working in a project-oriented setting, such as, an advertising or marketing campaign or a capital expenditure project. In addition, they were told that the survey had no “right” or “wrong” answers. The participants were promised full anonymity and confidentiality. These measures are expected to minimize social desirability response bias.

Eight situational variables were used as controlled cues in the vignettes to create a level playing field for studying the role of needs and attitudes: (1) employee participation in decision making, (2) proficiency and competence in doing one’s job, (3) autonomy of work, (4) climate at work, (5) remuneration based on fixed salaries or a combination of a fixed and a variable, performance-contingent part, (6) promotion possibilities within the firm, (7) existence of affiliative rewards from colleagues and supervisors, and (8) predictability and trustworthiness of the firm towards its employees. All eight factors have been identified by previous research as important characteristics of work situations (e.g., Osterloh and Frey 2000; Åmo 2006; Bowman and Ambrosini 2000).

In order to prevent bias in assessing the role of person-specific variables in management innovation resulting from an arbitrarily selected constellation of the above situational factors, we created multiple situations by adjusting the values we assigned to these variables (see Appendix 1) and exposed each participant to multiple vignettes.

Each of the 92 participants received a set of four vignettes in the questionnaire. We selected the 368 vignettes from a possible 384 according to a stratified random-sampling procedure. To avoid biasing of the distribution of responses, all 72 negative (at least four negative variable values describing the business situation) and all 72 positive vignettes were included in the 368; they were randomly assigned to individual questionnaires so as to ensure that each questionnaire had one negative and one positive vignette. As there needed to be 92 positive and 92 negative vignettes in all, some of the positive and negative vignettes appeared in two of the questionnaires. Out of the 240 possible neutral vignettes, a subset of 160 was randomly selected. Hence, 304 different vignettes were included in the study. This provided coverage of a large proportion of possible vignettes (over 79 %), which compares favorably to the proportions found in other studies using vignettes (e.g., Weibel et al. 2010, who cover about 33 %).

Usable questionnaires were received from 84 of the 92 participants. Of these, the questions on one vignette were not answered completely in 14 cases. However, as the other three vignettes were responded to completely, we keep them. The small number of unreturned or incomplete questionnaires should not bias the results. The authors coded the usable answers.

3.3 Measures

3.3.1 Needs and attitudes

The measurement of needs for achievement and needs for power relied on a refined version of Steers and Braunstein’s (1976) needs questionnaire recently validated by Yamaguchi (2003). Cronbach’s alphas of the instrument’s subscales capturing needs for achievement (nAch, 4 items) and needs for power (nPow, 3 items) in our sample were .87 and .86, respectively. Items loaded as conceptualized on their factors with eigenvalues of 2.8 and 2.3.

The items capturing participants’ attitudes to risk were inspired by an instrument used in the annual Dutch CentER Savings Survey (CSS) (see Kapteyn and Teppa 2002) and the item used in the German Socio Economic Panel. The adaptation of the instruments took the special nature of a vignette study into account as well as the scaling and wording used with the other items in the vignette questionnaire. Cronbach’s alpha for the five-item instrument was .85. Principal component factor analysis identified a single factor with eigenvalue of 2.22 explaining 64.2 % of total variance. Consequently, the five items were used to construct a factor for further analysis.

The instrument used to capture attitudes to change in managerial practices was inspired by De Jong and Kemp (2003), since some of their items seemed to fit the specific object of change reasonably well—innovative managerial practices. Nevertheless, the items had to be adapted to relate the instrument more closely to the attitudes to change in managerial practices. Cronbach’s alpha of the instrument reached an acceptable .72. Items loaded as conceptualized onto a single factor with eigenvalue of 2.18.

The scales are presented in appendices 2 and 3. To test Hypotheses 4–7 we measured the moderating effect of attitudes to risk and change on motivation. We operationalized this effect by forming product terms of risk attitude and openness to change on the one hand, and the strength of achievement motivation and power needs on the other.

3.3.2 Intention to engage in management innovation activities

Since no instrument for studying individuals’ engagement in management innovation activities existed, a new instrument had to be constructed. Development started with a literature survey of scales for individual innovative behavior. Among these scales, the ones by Scott and Bruce (1994) and Kleysen and Street (2001) have been re-used by several other authors (e.g., De Jong and Kemp 2003) and seemed suitable for transfer into an instrument capturing individual’s intention to engage in management innovations. Deviating from Scott and Bruce (1994) we, however, referred to practices and processes instead of products and use statements like “I will champion and take the risk of supporting new ideas of managing.” Participants were asked to state the extent to which they agreed with these items on a 7-point Likert scale. We found this method more appropriate than having people rate themselves directly on intention since the prior procedure is likely to reduce social desirability in responses. Hence, the items had to be reformulated, and one item aimed at capturing innovation behavior in total was dropped because we wanted to avoid serious social-desirability issues with it. Since the construct advocated by Kleysen and Street (2001) closely corresponds to the first five items from Scott and Bruce (1994) six-item instrument, we complemented these five items by another four complementary items modeled after items from the Kleysen and Street (2001) battery. Cronbach’s alpha for the resulting nine-item instrument was .92 (see Sect. Appendix 4 for details). Principal component factor analysis indicated that the nine items loaded onto a single factor (eigenvalue of 5.5) that explains 61.6 % of total variance, suggesting an acceptable measurement of the underlying construct.

3.3.3 Control variables

Self-report measures are susceptible to social desirability response bias (Moorman and Podsakoff 1992). Even though the vignette method might reduce this danger (Rossi and Anderson 1982), we include a 10-item scale developed and validated by Strahan and Gerbasi (1972) to assess this danger. The scale is a measure of an individual’s tendency to respond in a culturally appropriate and acceptable manner. For our sample, the 10-item Strahan and Gerbasi (1972) scale yielded a Cronbach’s alpha of .71 and provides for an approximate measure of the impact of social desirability on our results.

Following the suggestion by Weibel et al. (2010) to include an assessment of the perceived closeness of the vignettes to reality to measure ecological validity of the findings obtained, we added their single-item instrument as an additional control variable to each vignette. The mean value of 4.52, which we obtained on this scale in the present experiment, compares favorably to the value that Weibel et al. (2010) considered indicative of satisfactory closeness to reality.

We added another set of items to control for the potential influence of work experience on the answers to other items. They included an open-ended question on months of work experience in paid jobs and a 2-choice question regarding exposure to project-oriented work in their job (0 = none; 1 = past exposure). We also asked participants to report on a 7-point Likert scale their own perceived extent of exposure to performance-related rewards. The respondents averaged 66 months of work experience; 50 % reported that they had worked or are currently working in an organization in which the work was organized around projects, and 51.5 % reported reception of performance-related rewards.

Finally, we asked participants to indicate their gender and age. The majority of the participants (71.2 %) were male. Most were between 22 and 26 years old, although some were as old as 35 years.

4 Results

Table 1 provides a detailed summary of the descriptive statistics. The statistics of management innovation suggest that participants indeed used the scale of engagement level to differentiate their responses. This provides partial reassurance that socially desirable response behavior should not have led to a gross misstatement of their intention for management innovation. However, there is a significant correlation with the measure of socially desirable response behavior, suggesting that findings may not be entirely free of such an influence. Both needs for achievement and needs for power correlate significantly with the measure of the participants’ intention to engage in management innovation behavior. The same also applies to the attitudes to change, whereas the attitudes to risk do not correlate significantly with management innovation intention.
Table 1

Descriptive statistics, correlations, and alphas

Variable

Mean

SD

Min

Max

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

1 Management innovationa

0.00

1.00

−2.69

2.25

.92

         

2 Need for achievementa

0.00

1.00

−2.99

1.58

.29***

.87

        

3 Need for powera

0.00

1.00

−2.05

2.15

.22***

.51***

.86

       

4 Negative attitude towards risk (risk aversion)a

0.00

1.00

−1.89

2.41

−.04

−.05

−.27***

.85

      

5 Positive attitude towards changes in managerial practices (openness)a

0.00

1.00

−3.34

2.34

.21***

.09*

.27***

−.18***

.72

     

6 Gender

1.77

0.65

1.00

2.00

.08

.17***

.27***

−.30***

−.07

     

7 Age

23.77

3.22

21.00

35.00

−.05

−.06

−.08

.07

.14***

−.64***

    

8 Work experience (in months)

65.65

50.22

0.00

288.00

−.01

−.01

−.07

.04

.15***

−.25***

.29***

   

9 Experience in project-organized work

1.55

0.70

1.00

2.00

.03

−.09

−.11**

.03

−.19***

.46***

−.53***

−.06

  

10 Experience in performance-based pay

3.75

2.17

1.00

7.00

.08

.11*

.12**

.06

.37***

−.07

.15***

.05

−.27***

 

11 Socially desirable response behavior

4.00

0.78

1.70

6.30

−.12**

−.03

.08

−.09*

−.27***

.07

−.04

−.05

−.07

−.12**

n = 322. Significance of correlations: *** p < .01; ** p < .05; * p < .10 (two-tailed test)

aFactor based on multiple items; Cronbach’s alpha along the diagonale

As previously mentioned, we collected multiple responses per person to avoid a tainting of results by a particular situational constellation. This, however, creates a need to account for the nested nature of the data in our analysis (Wallander 2009; Weibel et al. 2010). The econometric procedure to achieve this is a multilevel-mixed-effects regression. It provides results for the variables of interest to us (needs and attitudes) like ordinary multiple regressions, but at the same time estimates the effects resulting from the nested nature of the data, i.e., the response behavior effects (referred to as random effects). It uses a two-step approach. In the first step it derives a random effect situated on the level of the individual participants (their cognitive response behavior or other unobserved personality variables). In the second step, it calculates the actual fixed effect of the independent variables—in our case of the needs and attitudes.

The first model in Table 2 addresses the influence of control variables; the second model adds the needs for achievement and needs for power; and the third model includes the interactions between the needs and the attitudes to risk and change.
Table 2

Multilevel-mixed effects regressions

 

Management innovation

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

Est.

z

Est.

z

Est.

z

Independent variables

      

Needs

      

 Need for achievement

  

.18***

(2.78)

.22***

(3.36)

 Need for power

  

.08

(1.14)

.04

(0.59)

Attitudes

      

 Negative attitude towards risk (risk aversion)

  

.05

(0.62)

.00

(0.01)

 Positive attitude towards changes in managerial practices (openness)

  

.14*

(1.84)

.14*

(1.81)

Attitudes × needs

      

 Negative attitude towards risk × need for achievement

    

−.01

(−0.15)

 Negative attitude towards risk × need for power

    

−.14*

(−1.76)

 Positive attitude towards changes in managerial practices × need for achievement

    

.15**

(2.27)

 Positive attitude towards changes in managerial practices × need for power

    

.04

(0.59)

Control variables

      

 Gender

.11

(0.83)

.00

(0.01)

.01

(−0.08)

 Age

−.01

(−0.41)

.00

(−0.15)

.00

(−0.14)

 Work experience (in months)

.00

(−0.01)

.00

(−0.54)

.00

(−0.84)

 Experience in project-organized work

.01

(0.09)

.13

(1.09)

.12

(1.05)

 Experience in performance-based pay

.02

(0.73)

−.01

(−0.18)

.01

(−0.33)

 Socially desirable response behavior

−.21**

(−2.35)

−.15*

(−1.66)

−.10

(−1.17)

 

Est.

SD.ER

Est.

SD.ER

Est.

SD.ER

Random effects

      

 sd(R.idl)

.46

.07

.42

.07

.38

.07

 sd(Residual)

.82

.04

.81

.04

.80

.04

Model fit and quality

      

 Number of observations

 

326

 

322

 

322

 Number of groups

 

85

 

84

 

84

 Log likelihood

 

−447.1133

 

−439.3297

 

−437.00204

 Incremental Χ2 (df)

 

 

20.91 (4)

 

20.26 (4)

 Prob > Χ2

 

 

.0003

 

.0004

 Wald Χ2 (df)

 

34.04 (7)

 

57.97 (11)

 

83.48 (15)

 Prob > Χ2

 

.0000

 

.0000

 

.0000

 Chibar2

 

18.57

 

15.46

 

11.41

 Prob > Chibar2

 

.0000

 

.0000

 

.0004

n = 322 (84 groups). *** p < .01; ** p < .05; * p < .10 (two-tailed test)

The increasing value for the log likelihood of our models suggests that model fit improves from models 1 to 3. This is indicated by the results of the incremental Chi2 test. The Wald test suggests that Models 2 and 3 are significantly different from a “null”-model with all factors being zero. All models tested are significant on the Chibar2 test at a high confidence level, suggesting that the data can be more accurately approximated by using a multilevel-mixed effects regression than by using a simple linear regression that neglects the nested nature of the data. However, in order to test for robustness of our findings, we ran both standard and clustered OLS regressions. In both cases, results (coefficients as well as significances) are similar to the ones obtained by the multilevel-mixed effects regressions.

Participants’ work experience, exposure to performance-contingent rewards, age, and gender do not affect their intention to engage in management innovation activities. Only our measure of social desirability has a significant influence: in Models 1 and 2 it affects management innovation intention (p values of .05 and .10, respectively), but not in Model 3, which is of most interest to our research questions.

In the second model, the participants’ needs for achievement have a considerable and significant impact on management innovation intention (p value of less than .01). Needs for power, however, while exhibiting the proposed relationship are not significant. The same holds true for Model 3. Hypothesis 1 is therefore supported while Hypothesis 2 is not.

The third model also reveals that attitudes to change exhibit a significant positive interaction effect with needs for achievement in determining the intention to engage in management innovation behavior (p value of .05), but not with needs for power (even though the expected direction of the relationship was found). Hence, Hypothesis 3 receives full support while Hypothesis 4 does not.

The significant interaction effect of openness towards change on the need for achievement signifies that the influence of the need for achievement on the respondents’ intention to engage in management innovation behavior depends upon the specific value of the attitude towards change at which the slope of the impact of the need for achievement on innovation intention is measured (cf. Aiken and West 1993). Hence, there is a “family of regression lines”—and since the moderating variable attitude to change is a continuous one, the number of these regression lines is theoretically infinite. To facilitate understanding and interpreting interaction effects of this kind, it is helpful to use a graphical representation of a limited set of the underlying values of the moderator variable (Jaccard and Turrisi 2003). Given that the moderator is continuous, no clear rationale for the selection of the values of the moderator variable exists (e.g., Aiken and West 1993). In such cases, Cohen and Cohen (1983) recommend choosing the mean of the moderator variable and the value for one standard deviation (SD) below the mean and above the mean as set of values for the regression lines. Since we believed that such an arbitrary choice might not give a reasonably representative picture of the interaction effects of two continuous variables, we also calculate the respective regression lines for two standard deviations above and below the mean. Figure 2 presents the regression lines of participants’ intentions to engage in management innovation on need for achievement for this set of five values of the attitude towards change.
https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1007%2Fs10997-013-9280-7/MediaObjects/10997_2013_9280_Fig2_HTML.gif
Fig. 2

Interaction of need for achievement and positive attitude towards change. Note Need for achievement (horizontal axis) and positive attitude towards change (moderator) relying on centered data (i.e., mean of both the independent variable and the moderator is zero and interaction term calculated by multiplying the centered predictors (cf. Aiken and West 1993; Jaccard and Turrisi 2003)

Figure 2 reveals a complex pattern of regressions of the intention to engage in management innovation on need for achievement depending on the level of the openness towards change. For a strongly positive attitude towards change, the need for achievement plays a much stronger positive role than it does for a more moderate attitude to change. In contrast, for a weaker but still positive attitude towards change, the strength of the need for achievement does not seem to enhance intention to engage in management innovation behavior. On the contrary, individuals who are less open to new ideas tend to look less for innovative management solutions as their need for achievement increases. Whereas the first finding corresponds to Hypothesis 3, the latter does not. Applying a t test for whether the simple slopes of the five regressions are significantly different from zero (see Aiken and West 1993), shows only the slopes for −2 standard deviations and +1 standard deviation to be significantly different from zero (p values of <.001). This shows that the positive attitude towards change indeed moderates the relationship of need for achievement and management innovation intention—and thus lends support to the hypothesized moderation (Hypothesis 3).

Returning to Table 2, negative attitudes to risk show the proposed direction (i.e., a negative interaction with both needs for achievement and needs for power in determining an individual’s intention to engage in management innovations), but are only significant with the latter ones (p value of .10). Thus, Hypothesis 6 is weakly supported; Hypothesis 5 is not. Again, a graphical representation of the regression lines for a set of values for the moderating variable allows further illustration of the impact of the attitudes on the need for power–intention relationship.

Figure 3 suggests that individuals at −1 standard deviation of the risk attitude are most susceptible to a change in the need for power. Slopes at the other four levels of risk attitude in contrast are less steep and very much alike—thus suggesting that the impact of need for power on participants’ intention for management innovation behavior will not be much different between individuals with a medium risk attitude or a risk attitude at one standard deviation above that mean. This apparently small role of risk attitudes for these values is corroborated by a t test for the simple slopes that shows that only for the level of −1 standard deviation (−1 SD) of risk aversion the slope is significantly different from zero (p value of <.05). Further analysis for additional regressions (for parsimony not included in the graph) at values of +1.7 and +2.4 standard deviations, however, resulted in weakly significant slopes (p values of <.10). Both regressions exhibit negative slopes. This suggests that overall risk aversion as predicted negatively moderates the relationship of need for power and intention for management innovation behavior. Whereas for a low risk-aversion of −1 SD an increase in the need for power still has a strong and positive impact on the engagement in management innovation behavior, growing risk aversion results in a halt of this impact and eventually (at +1.7 and 2.4 SD of risk aversion) leads actually to a slightly falling impact of increases in need for power on intention to engage in management innovation behavior. Hypothesis 6, hence, receives some support by the additional analyses, but also seems to require further refinement and testing.
https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1007%2Fs10997-013-9280-7/MediaObjects/10997_2013_9280_Fig3_HTML.gif
Fig. 3

Interaction of need for power and negative attitude towards risk. Note Need for power (horizontal axis) and negative attitude towards risk (moderator) relying on centered data i.e., mean of both the independent variable and the moderator is zero and interaction term calculated based by multiplying the centered predictors. Given the underlying distribution of the negative attitude towards risk (lowest level of risk aversion at −1.9 SD) the data for −2 SD plotted in the graph actually corresponds to this lowest available level

5 Discussion and conclusions

Organizational factors, such as firm size, organization culture and power relations, formalization and centralization, or the economic situation of a firm are undoubtedly important factors in explaining management innovation (Birkinshaw et al. 2008; Harder 2011). They thus have been at the center of extant research into management innovation. Yet, firms might also be able to spur the level of management innovation by hiring (or retaining) individuals that—given their personal characteristics—are likely to engage in activities required to bring management innovation about.

The results suggest that an individual’s needs for achievement significantly influence a person’s intention to engage in management innovation. Thus, recruiting individuals high in need for achievement seems a promising avenue for increasing the level of management innovation experienced by a firm. Yet, the results equally show that the relation between needs for achievement and intentions to engage in management innovation is moderated by the individual’s attitudes to change.

In contrast to the needs for achievement, the needs for power showed no significant impact on the intention to engage in management innovation. This would suggest that they merit less attention in firms’ recruitment decisions. Finally, with respect to the moderation by a person’s attitudes to risk, the study’s findings are mixed. Whereas there is some support for such a moderation, additional research seems necessary to arrive at a clearer and more robust picture for the interplay of needs for power and attitudes towards risk in explaining individuals’ intentions to engage in management innovation.

Demographic factors used as controls like age, gender and work experience of the study participants do not (within the range of values gathered) influence their intention to engage in management innovation behavior in a significant way. Whereas this lends some reassurance to our findings, some limitations, however, apply and call for further research.

With respect to the research model, it is important to stress that we limited our analysis to needs for achievement and power as well as to the attitudes to change and risk. Whereas needs and attitudes are considered key factors influencing human intentions (and subsequently behaviors), other factors also pay a role.

First, the conditions surrounding an individual are likely to influence a person’s intentions and actual behaviors. Past research on management innovation—albeit operating not at the level of individuals but at the level of firms—has pointed to such factors as an organization’s culture, size, economic and competitive situation, degree of formalization etc. as affecting the management innovations developed and implemented by the firm (e.g., Mol and Birkinshaw 2009; Nickel et al. 2001; Vaccaro et al. 2012; Zbaracki 1998). Since it is individuals who act, not organizations, this extant research thus implicitly suggests that these factors influence firm-level management innovation by affecting intentions, behaviors and interactions of individuals within the respective organizations. Therefore, future research studying the phenomenon of management innovation at the level of individuals should expand the scope of factors considered in determining individuals’ intentions to engage in management innovation to include factors from the conditions surrounding an individual alongside with such person-specific factors as the needs and attitudes that we considered.

This even more so since successful behavior requires both, a high intention to act but also the possibility to act and apart from the prior, the latter is likely to be influenced by the conditions surrounding an individual. Sometimes an individual might have a strong intention to engage in management innovation, yet might not do so if he or she, for example, simply lacks sufficient slack time to engage in the necessary activities. Similarly, the actual content of a management innovation—that is: what needs to change and how—and its ease of explicit communication might influence the likelihood that an innovative idea gets actually championed up by lower-level members in an organization, and subsequently adopted (e.g., Ax and Bjørnenak 2005). Some ideas might simply be too difficult to communicate, thus hindering individuals in actually acting in a manner to bring management innovation about.

Second, while needs for achievement and power as well as attitudes towards change and towards risk are commonly considered key psychological determinants of intentions, other person-specific factors equally merit attention.

Individual beliefs, in particular self-efficacy beliefs about the chances of actually being able to make a positive change (i.e., to trigger a management innovation), or cognitive biases leading to a flawed perception of situational conditions might affect an individual’s intention alongside with the needs and attitudes and their interactions. Moreover, needs for achievement and for power are neither the only human needs, nor is the chosen conceptualization (cf. McClelland et al. 1953) the only one available.

Apart from exploring these more stable personal characteristics, future research might also examine the role of emotional states for triggering management innovation behavior. Since such states can affect decision processes (e.g., Schiffenbauer 1974), they might influence, for example, the intensity of engagement in management innovations.

Third, our findings suggest a complex role of attitudes in motivating individuals to engage in management innovation activities. In particular, the direct relationship between attitude towards change and intention to engage in management innovation closely mirrors the result from a recent study on the adoption of organizational innovations in public organizations (Damanpour and Schneider 2009). It raises questions about how needs and attitudes interact in determining intentions (and behavior) and underlines the persisting research gap on the causal relationship between attitudes and outcomes (e.g., Lonti 2005). Whereas a direct relationship is closely in line with Ajzen and Fishbein’s (1980) theory of planned behavior, an equally prominent stream of literature emphasizes a moderating effect (e.g., Miner and Dachler 1973; Triandis 1977). Part of the persisting disagreement among scholars might be rooted in issues of measuring attitudes, with some scholars arguing in favor of uni-dimensional measurements while others advance multi-dimensional ones (e.g., Lehman et al. 2002; Oreg 2003; Holt et al. 2007a). Since the two alternative measurement approaches pick up attitudes in different ways, disagreement in empirical findings—and resulting theory-building efforts are not too surprising. Future studies therefore should investigate attitudes in more detail and use both uni-dimensional and multi-dimensional measures of attitudes, thereby allowing shedding more light at the relationship between attitudes and intentions for management innovation than our present study based on its single uni-dimensional scale can. Such future research would provide for better insights on the moderation-direct-effect issue, thereby not only helping to address a research gap in attitude research (Lonti 2005), but also lead to more precise practical recommendations.

Fourth, since we focused on participants’ intentions to engage in management innovation and not their actual behavior, our study not only excludes situational factors that might prevent an individual from implementing her intentions, but also the role of abilities, knowledge, and skills. Actually developing and championing new ideas for how to improve managerial practices at an organization may require abilities, knowledge, and skills that an individual does not possess. Insufficient abilities, knowledge, and skills along with environmental factors affecting a person’s possibility to act in the intended manner imply that no perfect link between behavioral intentions and actual behavior exists (Ajzen and Fishbein 1980; Ajzen 1988). Future research should therefore try to consider the role of individual characteristics and external factors both in determining individuals’ intentions and actual behaviors. Observational studies—either in the field or the lab—seem a promising approach for this. Such an observational study would also allow studying the actual process by which individuals champion management innovations: the sequences of steps, the little verbal and non-verbal tactics of convincing others and building momentum.

With respect to the research method, one may question the ecological validity of findings generated in laboratory settings, such as vignette studies (Colquitt 2008). Whereas some recent evidence suggests, that vignette experiments are likely to provide for ecologically valid findings (Eifler 2007; Linder 2010), additional evidence on the interplay of needs, attitudes, intentions and actual management innovation behaviors generated by another method, such as a field experiment, seems warranted.

Since extant literature did not provide for a scale for measuring individual’s intentions to engage in management innovation behavior, we developed a measurement instrument specifically for this study. While we devoted great care to the development of the scale and while it exhibits adequate internal consistency, further refinement of the scale seems merited. For example, small modifications in wording are likely to further enhance the discriminant validity of the scale with respect to separating intentions to engage in management innovation from intentions to engage in technological process innovations.

We relied on data collected from a single sample of business school students in a Nordic country. Until further research has been conducted, one should thus be cautious with generalizing the results to other groups of individuals (such as applicants without a university background, individuals with an academic background other than business, those who are older and have more job experience, individuals from emerging countries, or managerial populations etc.). Additional research into how well our findings generalize to such populations seems necessary. For example, as needs are learnt (see McClelland et al. 1953) and as students have spent most of their lives in school, the needs for achievement might be more strongly developed than the needs for power that arguably are less central to the lives of students than to those of employees. One thus might speculate on the insignificant role of the needs for power in our study and the mixed results for their interaction with risk attitudes. Older job applicants might exhibit a stronger need for power, which might then lead to the interaction effect becoming significant. Re-testing this relation in other samples, such as first- or middle-level managers or “grey necks” thus is necessary. Similarly, students or young employees might differ from older employees in their greater openness towards new practices, as younger employees tend to be less entrenched in practices and procedures than are older and more experienced employees. Moreover, the student population used in our study has been educated to perform autonomous and partly knowledge-intense work. Hence, the findings should be generalized to blue-collar workers and shop floor staff only with caution.

Whereas these limitations call for further research into the subject, our paper adds to literature in at least three ways.

First, we show that needs and attitudes are important antecedents to the intention to engage in management innovation. We thereby advance the understanding of management innovation from a micro- or individual-level perspective. Whereas large parts of the extant literature concentrate on the industry- or firm-level aspects of management innovation, a micro-level perspective opens up personnel selection as a hitherto overlooked lever that management can pull to foster management innovation and follows the ontological insight, that it is individuals who act, not organizations as such. The results highlight that practitioners interested in fostering management innovation in their organizations should pay more attention to selecting and retaining the “right” type of employee from the pool of job applicants.

Second, we contribute an empirical measurement instrument that should facilitate future investigations into the antecedents of management innovation behavior. To our best knowledge, we provide the first measurement instrument for capturing individuals’ intentions to engage in management innovation behavior. Intentions are an important mediating variable between an individual’s needs, attitudes, or the situational conditions an individual is exposed to, and the person’s actual (i.e., observable) behavior (Ajzen and Fishbein 1980; Ajzen 1988). Thus, while our measurement instrument undoubtedly merits further refinement in future research, we provide a first means for better empirically studying the causal chain leading to an individual’s observable management innovation behavior.

Third, to our best knowledge, the paper is the first one to view employees’ role in management innovation not only as one of passive agents. We aim at triggering more research that allows employees to be active agents and thus at arriving at a more balanced investigation of the individuals involved in management innovation.

Footnotes
1

We thus wish to stress that we do not posit that managers do not engage in management innovation, or do so to a different extent than employees, or that the role of their individual characteristics for their intentions to engage in management innovation behavior are necessarily different from those of employees. We only focus here on (prospective) employees as one exemplary group of individuals since they have so far been entirely sidelined in the discussion on management innovation and since most firms regularly hire new employees, thus providing practitioners potentially with a ready lever to influence the level of management innovation experienced by their organizations.

 

Acknowledgments

The paper benefitted from helpful comments by three anonymous reviewers, Robert Burgelman, Steven Floyd, Nicolai J. Foss, Lars Frederiksen, Mie Harder, Torben Pedersen, Larissa Rabbiosi, Mia Reinholt, and the participants of the 5th EIASM Conference on Performance Measurement and Management and the CBS Conference on Management Innovation. We are also highly indebted to the participants in our study who provided us with the data underlying the present article as well as for Kunz and Linder (2012). Parts of the work were carried out during Stefan Linder’s previous affiliation with Copenhagen Business School’s Department for Strategic Management & Globalization.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013