Conditions for complex innovations: evidence from public organizations

  • Mehmet Akif DemirciogluEmail author
  • David B. Audretsch


Despite the growing interest in understanding innovative activities, an important limitation of the current literature on innovation—both public and private—is an assumption that innovative activity is a homogeneous phenomenon. However, most innovative activities are heterogeneous in nature. One way of characterizing innovation heterogeneity is the complexity of innovations. Using data from public organizations, this paper is one of the first studies to develop a framework for and provide an empirical test of the main influences on innovation complexity within the public sector context. The empirical evidence suggests that employees’ innovative behavior and cooperation, along with collaborating with important external sources and the ability to work in a complex environment, are positively associated with complex innovations in the public sector, suggesting that the influences on complex innovations span the individual, work group, and external environment levels. However, an organization’s leadership quality and innovation climate do not have any statistical effect on complex innovations.


Innovation Innovation complexity Public sector innovation Public organizations 

JEL Classification

C12 C21 M10 M38 O31 O32 O38 



Funding was provided by National University of Singapore (Grant No. R-603-000-270-133).


  1. Acs, Z. J., Audretsch, D. B., Lehmann, E. E., & Licht, G. (2017). National systems of innovation. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 42(5), 997–1008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albury, D. (2005). Fostering innovation in public services. Public money and management, 25(1), 51–56.Google Scholar
  3. Albury, D. (2011). Creating the conditions for radical public service innovation. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 70(3), 227–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Altshuler, A. A., & Zegans, M. D. (1997). Innovation and public management: Notes from the State House and City Hall. In A. A. Altshuler & R. D. Behn (Eds.), Innovation in American Government: Challenges, opportunities, and dilemmas (pp. 68–80). Washington, D.C: The Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  5. Anzola-Román, P., Bayona-Sáez, C., & García-Marco, T. (2018). Organizational innovation, internal R&D and externally sourced innovation practices: Effects on technological innovation outcomes. Journal of Business Research, 91, 233–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Arundel, A., Bloch, C., & Ferguson, B. (2016). Measuring innovation in the public sector. OECD Blue Sky, Conference Paper, Ghent, Belgium.Google Scholar
  7. Arundel, A., Casali, L., & Hollanders, H. (2015). How European public sector agencies innovate: The use of bottom-up, policy-dependent and knowledge-scanning innovation methods. Research Policy, 44(7), 1271–1282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Audretsch, D. B., & Link, A. N. (2018). Entrepreneurship and knowledge spillovers from the public sector. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal. Scholar
  9. Australian Public Service Commission (APSC). (2011a). State of the Service Report 2010–2011: Australian Public Service Employee Survey Results. In A. Public (Ed.), Service Commission. Canberra: Australian Public Service Commission.Google Scholar
  10. Australian Public Service Commission (APSC). (2011b). Employee survey results: State of the Service Series 2010–11. In A. P. S. Commission (Ed.), Canberra. Australia: Australian Public Service Commission.Google Scholar
  11. Bankins, S., Denness, B., Kriz, A., & Molloy, C. (2017). Innovation agents in the public sector: Applying champion and promotor theory to explore innovation in the Australian Public Service. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 76(1), 122–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Barlow, J., Bayer, S., & Curry, R. (2006). Implementing complex innovations in fluid multi-stakeholder environments: Experiences of ‘telecare’. Technovation, 26(3), 396–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bartos, S. (2003). Creating and sustaining innovation. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 62(1), 09–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Becker, S. W., & Whisler, T. L. (1967). The innovative organization: A selective view of current theory and research. Journal of Business, 40(4), 462–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bloch, C., & Bugge, M. M. (2013). Public sector innovation—From theory to measurement. Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, 27, 133–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Borins, S. F. (2009). Innovations in government: Research, recognition, and replication. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  18. Bugge, M., Mortensen, P. S., & Bloch, C. (2011). Measuring public innovation in Nordic Countries. Report on the Nordic Pilot studies-Analyses of methodology and results.Google Scholar
  19. Christensen, C., Anthony, S., & Roth, E. A. (2004). Seeing what’s next: Using the theories of innovation to predict industry change. Brighton: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  20. Chuang, E., Jason, K., & Morgan, J. C. (2011). Implementing complex innovations: Factors influencing middle manager support. Health Care Management Review, 36(4), 369–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cohen, W. M., & Klepper, S. (1992a). The anatomy of industry R&D intensity distributions. The American Economic Review, 82(4), 773–799.Google Scholar
  22. Cohen, W. M., & Klepper, S. (1992b). The tradeoff between firm size and diversity in the pursuit of technological progress. Small Business Economics, 4(1), 1–14.Google Scholar
  23. Demircioglu, M. A. (2017). Reinventing the Wheel? Public Sector Innovation in the Age of Governance. Public Administration Review, 77(5), 800–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Demircioglu, M. A., & Audretsch, D. B. (2017a). Conditions for innovation in public sector organizations. Research Policy, 46(9), 1681–1691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Demircioglu, M. A., & Audretsch, D. B. (2017b). Public sector innovation: The effect of universities. The Journal of Technology Transfer. Scholar
  26. Dosi, G. (1988a). Sources, procedures, and microeconomic effects of innovation. Journal of economic literature, 26(3), 1120–1171.Google Scholar
  27. Dosi, G. (1988b). The nature of the innovative process. Technical Change and Economic Theory, 2, 590–607.Google Scholar
  28. Engelen, A., Gupta, V., Strenger, L., & Brettel, M. (2015). Entrepreneurial orientation, firm performance, and the moderating role of transformational leadership behaviors. Journal of Management, 41(4), 1069–1097.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Favero, N., & Bullock, J. B. (2015). How (not) to solve the problem: An evaluation of scholarly responses to common source bias. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 25(1), 285–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fernandez, S., & Moldogaziev, T. (2013). Using employee empowerment to encourage innovative behavior in the public sector. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 23(1), 155–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fernandez, S., & Pitts, D. W. (2011). Understanding employee motivation to innovate: Evidence from front line employees in United States federal agencies. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 70(2), 202–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fernandez, S., & Wise, L. R. (2010). An exploration of why public organizations ‘Ingest’ innovations. Public Administration, 88(4), 979–998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Goffin, K., & Mitchell, R. (2010). Innovation management: Strategy and implementation using the pentathlon framework. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Goldsmith, S., & Eggers, W. D. (2004). Governing by network: The new shape of the public sector. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  35. Hartley, J. (2016). Organizational and governance aspects of diffusing public innovation. In J. Torfing & P. Triantafillou (Eds.), Enhancing public innovation by transforming public governance (pp. 95–113). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jung, C. S., & Lee, G. (2016a). Organizational climate, leadership, organization size, and aspiration for innovation in government agencies. Public Performance & Management Review, 39(4), 757–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jung, H. J., & Lee, J. (2016b). The quest for originality: a new typology of knowledge search and breakthrough inventions. Academy of Management Journal, 59(5), 1725–1753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Keupp, M. M., & Gassmann, O. (2013). Resource constraints as triggers of radical innovation: Longitudinal evidence from the manufacturing sector. Research Policy, 42(8), 1457–1468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lewis, J. M., Ricard, L. M., & Klijn, E. H. (2018). How innovation drivers, networking and leadership shape public sector innovation capacity. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 84(2), 288–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Linden, R. M. (2010). Leading across boundaries: Creating collaborative agencies in a networked world. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  41. Link, A. N., & Siegel, D. (2007). Innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Long, J. S. (1997). Regression models for categorical and limited dependent variables. CA Sage: Thousand Oaks.Google Scholar
  43. Lundvall, B.-Å. (2010). National systems of innovation: Toward a theory of innovation and interactive learning. London: Anthem press.Google Scholar
  44. Nelson, R. R., & Winter, S. G. (1982). An evolutionary theory of economic change. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  45. OECD. (2005). Oslo Manual. In Guidelines for collecting and interpreting innovation data. ParisGoogle Scholar
  46. Pavitt, K. (1984). Sectoral patterns of technical change: Towards a taxonomy and a theory. Research Policy, 13(6), 343–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: a critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Popa, S., Soto-Acosta, P., & Martinez-Conesa, I. (2017). Antecedents, moderators, and outcomes of innovation climate and open innovation: An empirical study in SMEs. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 118, 134–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sahni, N. R., Wessel, M., & Christensen, C. (2013). Unleashing breakthrough innovation in government. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 11, 27–31.Google Scholar
  50. Suzuki, K., & Demircoglu, M. A. (2018). The association between administrative characteristics and national-level innovative activity: Findings from a cross-national study. Public Performance & Management Review. (In Press).Google Scholar
  51. Thompson, J. R., & Sanders, R. P. (1997). Strategies for reinventing federal agencies: Gardening versus engineering. Public Productivity & Management Review, 21(2), 137–155. Scholar
  52. Torfing, J., & Triantafillou, P. (2016). Enhancing public innovation by transforming public governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Torugsa, N., & Arundel, A. (2016a). Complexity of innovation in the public sector: A workgroup-level analysis of related factors and outcomes. Public Management Review, 18(3), 392–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Torugsa, N. A., & Arundel, A. (2016b). The nature and incidence of workgroup innovation in the Australian public sector: Evidence from the Australian 2011 state of the service survey. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 75(2), 202–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Torugsa, N. A., & Arundel, A. (2017). Rethinking the effect of risk aversion on the benefits of service innovations in public administration agencies. Research Policy, 46(5), 900–910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Van der Wal, Z. (2017). The 21st century public manager. London: Macmillan Education UK.Google Scholar
  57. Walker, R. M. (2008). An empirical evaluation of innovation types and organizational and environmental characteristics: Towards a configuration framework. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 18(4), 591–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Windrum, P. (2008). Innovation and entrepreneurship in public services. In P. Windrom & P. Koch (Eds.), Innovation in public sector services: Entrepreneurship, creativity and management (pp. 3–22). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yuan, F., & Woodman, R. W. (2010). Innovative behavior in the workplace: The role of performance and image outcome expectations. Academy of Management Journal, 53(2), 323–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lee Kuan Yew School of Public PolicyThe National University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Institute for Development Strategies, School of Public and Environmental AffairsIndiana University-BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations