Workplace Innovation, Social Innovation, and Social Quality

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Workplace Innovation, Social Innovation, and Social Quality Peter R.A. Oeij, Steven Dhondt, and Ton Korver Abstract Social innovation is becoming a core value of the EU flagship initiative Innovation Union, but it is not clearly demarcated as it covers a wide field of topics. To understand social innovation within European policymaking a brief outline is given of EC policy developments on innovation and on workplace innovation. Definitions of social innovation formulated at the societal level and the organizational or workplace level are discussed. Empirical research findings of workplace innovation in the Netherlands are presented as examples showing that workplace innovation activities boost organizational performance. The article explores the relation between workplace innovation and social innovation, and concludes that policy developments in the EU can be studied with the theory of social quality, provided that the latter in its empirical approach focuses on how individuals together constitute innovations. Keywords: social innovation; social quality; workplace innovation; European Commission

Introduction In the search to enhance the innovative capacity of the European Union member states, social innovation is a notion attracting growing attention by the European Commission (EC). Social innovation is defined “in terms of both ends (new solutions to societal problems) and means (the new forms of social organization needed to ensure their delivery)” (EC October 2010b: 29). Social innovation is regarded as of great importance to improving economic growth and social cohesion and can be a driver for renewing the public sector, which is under the threat of cost-cutting policies, and the private sector, which cannot be successful enough if it solely focuses on technological innovation. However, scholars may also criticize social innovation studies for their multiple references. Many of these studies draw from economics, management studies, business and technology innovation, but also from social anthropology, sociology, and politics. That may be an advantage and it may betray a lack of focus: social innovation has no fixed boundaries. For instance, Howaldt and Schwarz (2010: 7) state: “A plethora of vastly diverging issues, subject matters and problem dimensions as well as expectations for resolving them are subsumed under the heading ‘social innovation’.” Thus, for International Journal of Social Quality 1(2), Winter 2011: 31–49 © Berghahn Journals 2011 doi:10.3167/IJSQ.2011.010204

Peter R.A. Oeij, Steven Dhondt, and Ton Korver

some commentators, social innovation is a notion more akin to a container than to a workable concept. That is hardly satisfying. This article will approach social innovation in a particular way, namely by linking social innovation to workplace innovation. Workplace innovation, in our view, is an excellent reference for elucidating the broad concept of social innovation. By presenting findings from research in the Netherlands on how workplace innovation affects company performance and employee sickness absence, this study will illustrate how workplace innovation is being studied empirically. It will demonstrate in the first place how the relation between workplace innovation and social innovation can be understood. Second, the study will aim to align social innovation and the study of the theory of social quality (Walker and Van der Maesen forthcoming). The theory of social quality as we know it today is, in the opinion of the authors, underscoring the mechanism where, at an actor level, humans constitute society (Lin, Ward, and Van der Maesen 2009: 202). Through the presentation of an empirical example of workplace innovation as one of several ways that social innovation may come about at societal level, we hope to open up a path for users of the social quality theory to empirically study activities in the realm of social innovation. In doing so, the study will briefly touch upon the possible praxis of both social innovation and social quality. Our aim, then, is to reduce the gap between the concepts of workplace innovation, social innovation, and social quality theory. Accordingly, this study consists of three parts. First, the development of social innovation studies in Europe is briefly described, including a historical note on policymaking and on the use of concepts and definitions. Second, a case study of social innovation studies is presented in the shape of workplace innovation within organizations; specifically, the relation between innovation and a firm’s performance and sickness absence of its employees. Third, after having discussed social innovation and workplace innovation, we establish a link with the theory of social quality. In so doing we claim that the theory of social quality will gain in plausibility if it manages to conceptually integrate the mechanisms through which human individuals constitute innovations, both at the organizational and at the societal level. Social innovation is social inasmuch as it succeeds in specifying such mechanisms. If not, the social in social innovation is destined to remain a blanket term, covering everything and explaining nothing.

Promoting Social Innovation Studies in the European Context The European Commission

Innovation enables economies to flourish and to enhance welfare and wellbeing. Boosting Europe’s research and innovation performance should support sustainable growth. In the fall of 2010 the European Commission (EC) launched the “Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative Innovation Union” (EC October 2010a; 2010b) as one of its seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy (EC March 2010). The goal of the Innovation Union is to make Europe a top-of-the-bill science performer. 32 • International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011

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Europe 2020 is a ten-year strategy, proposed by the European Commission in March 2010 for reviving the European economy. It aims at “smart, sustainable, inclusive growth.” Innovation Union will present a broad concept of innovation; one that is not only technological. Social innovation will be a major theme as well; examples include citizen participation in public budget decisions, social networks to provide community-based support to the elderly, and ethically sound financial products. This broader concept of innovation is a breakthrough, if not a policy paradigm shift for European policy, because social innovation, next to technological innovation, is now a key feature of Europe’s innovation policy. Social innovation is regarded by the EC (EC October 2010b: 28–29) as a new form of innovation, alongside “open innovation” enabled by new information and communication technology (ICT) and social media applications. It calls for new interactions and partnerships between public and private sectors for innovation activities with a social benefit. New forms stress the importance of “non technological” innovation, such as “organizational innovation” (changes in work flows and production) and “soft” innovations (new business models, marketing strategies, service delivery modes, etc.). The birth of the initiative was in January 2009, when EC President Barroso met social innovation experts and stakeholders in Brussels (Bureau of European Policy Advisers, BEPA March 2010) to discuss social innovation. The objective of the meeting was to explore ways to boost the social innovation dimension of the Renewed Social Agenda (EC July 2008) through which the Barroso Commission re-emphasized the goal of a social Europe as the heart of its policies. Social innovation was to become the road toward the design and implementation of creative ways of meeting social needs. Other Agendas Affecting European Policy

Recently the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) commissioned an investigation into the relation between social innovation and occupational safety and health. The ensuing study directed its attention to the organizational level and conceived of social innovation as “workplace innovation.” Also, the study offers an overview of policy activities, undertaken in Europe in the realm of workplace innovation as an important instance of social innovation (Eeckelaert et al. forthcoming). In 2000, world leaders at the United Nations (UN) Millennium Summit promised the “end of poverty by 2015” (http://www.endpoverty2015.org). The International Labour Organisation, ILO, translated this goal into the Decent Work Agenda (ILO 2005) emphasizing the importance of making decent work a strategic international goal and promoting fair globalization. At the UN World Summit in 2005, global leaders agreed to pursue full and productive employment and Decent Work as a central objective of relevant national and international policies, spelling out the central role of Decent Work in development strategies and poverty reduction. The Decent Work Agenda from the ILO was embraced by the EC, as it provides an appropriate framework for promoting the European social acquis (attained social rights) on the international stage. Decent Work refers to opportunities for women and men to obtain International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011 • 33

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work in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity. The Decent Work Agenda thus serves as a staging post for promoting elements of the European Social Model and the EU 2020 Strategy in a universal context. For the development of this work programme, cooperation and inspiration came from the “quality of work—new work organization” activities from the EC. Europe’s activities around the issues of quality of work and new work organizations date from the 1990s. At the beginning of the new millennium, the EC launched its Lisbon Agenda in 2000, as it wanted Europe to become the leading knowledge economy of the world and to set clear goals for the European Employment Strategy (EES). This Agenda showed an interest in new forms of work organization, for which the green paper of 1999, “Partnership for a new organisation of work,” was instrumental (EC 1999; Oeij, Dhondt, and Wiezer 2006). In 2001, the Commission adopted a communication that provided a broad framework for promoting quality of work (EC 2001). Within the EU, the EES was launched, which focused on “more and better jobs,” thus encompassing the quality of work framework in the EU’s member states. The Decent Work programme developed by the ILO and the UN is essentially the same as the EC’s quality of work typology, which, given the fact that emerging economies are now included in the analysis, adds labor rights and social protection aspects to the definition of quality of work. Given that the external dimension is one of the key areas of the EES, this should allow for synergies between the EU and the ILO’s job quality strategies. Since 2008 the term “social innovation” has been used increasingly amongst European policymakers, and its increasing prominence is evident in the attention devoted to the social aspects of innovation and change. At the end of 2008, the EC’s Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Directorate-General organized a European meeting on social innovation and transnational cooperation. The end of the EQUAL initiative was celebrated at its Social Innovation International Conference (December 2008). The event stimulated a debate on the future of social innovation within the EU. Among the topics were empowerment, gender equality, diversity, and innovation in the workplace and community. Since January 2009, a line of argument has emerged to include social innovation more prominently in the Europe 2020 framework. In line with exploring policy options in this realm, another workshop and roundtable discussions entitled “Social innovation mobilising resources and people” were held in March 2010 in Brussels. All this eventually led up to the flagship initiative Innovation Union in October 2010. So much for the policies related to social innovation and workplace innovation. Let us now take a closer look at some definitions of social innovation.

Social Innovation: Its Definition Caulier-Grice et al. (2010) state that some definitions are too wide, and some too narrow and, therefore, they “adopted a simpler and sharper alternative. Social innovations are innovations that are social both in their ends and in their means.” Specifically, they say, “we define social innovations as new ideas (products, services, and 34 • International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011

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models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words they are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act” (Caulier-Grice et al. 2010: 16–17). This definition, which was adopted by the European Commission (Bureau of Policy Advisers, BEPA 2010; EC 2010b), is not specific enough (since it includes ends as goals and ends as achievements). In a next step, the authors then try to determine where social innovations come from. They discern four connected sectors: the private market, the public sector, the third sector (the grant economy and voluntary work), and households. Innovations starting in one sector can be taken up in others. The social innovations in these sectors are united by social goals and by the importance given to ethics, social inclusion, empowerment, and solidarity. That, in our view, is both too much and too little. Some studies discuss the driving forces and dynamics of social innovation by looking at diverse resources, which can be, moreover, driving forces for social change in their own right (Caulier-Grice et al. 2010: 18–21). Individuals and entrepreneurs are the basic components of these resources for change, and we find them among politicians, intellectuals, business people, and activists. Other resources/drivers are not individuals but social movements, the carriers of ideas rather than the originators. Environmentalism and anti-globalism are well-known examples of social movements, but in the realm of social innovation there are many such movements, known and unknown. The third type of drivers we find in innovative organizations, which, if successful, simultaneously focus on existing activities, emerging ones, and more radical possibilities that might turn out to be the mainstream activities of the future. Despite all these efforts, many researchers are dissatisfied with the current situation in the field of social innovation studies. A concept that covers all, covers nothing and therefore a conceptual Ockham’s razor is badly needed. According to some authors, social innovation is distinguished as that type of innovation which relates to either business or to society (Pol and Ville 2009). Innovations related to business are dominated by profit goals, while innovations related to society are dominated by social goals. But, at the same time, business innovations often have beneficial social effects, and several social innovations have proven to be profitable. Dissatisfied with the term’s several overlapping meanings, Pol and Ville use its main characteristic (new ideas conducive to human welfare enhancement) and define social innovation as the generation and implementation of new ideas that carry the potential to improve either the quality or quantity of life. Qualitative goals include, for example, better education and better environmental quality, and quantitative goals include longer life expectancy, for instance. Particularly in cases where social and business innovation overlap—they give the example of the Internet—government intervention is necessary to encourage the creation of social benefits next to profits. Phills et al. (2008) employ a rather similar definition. These authors define social innovation as a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions, and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than to private individuals (Phills et al. 2008: 36). In their view a social innovation can be a product, production process, or technology, but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011 • 35

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intervention, or a combination of these. Two examples are fair trade and microfinance. Both examples help weaker groups (local producers), while benefiting the whole of society at the same time (reducing social inequality). Although the definition of the European Commission is vaguer than these two, it can be interpreted in the same vein. Social innovation was defined in terms of both ends (new solutions to societal problems) and means (the new forms of social organization needed to ensure their delivery). It aligns with the two in the sense that social goals are paramount; it differs from them as to the role of government. The EC does not prescribe government intervention as an “essentialist” characteristic of social innovation (such as in the case of the definition by Pol and Ville), preferring instead the more organic emergence of local partnerships and forms of cooperation (EC, October, 2010a; 2010b). All in all, the meaning of social innovation is heterogeneous, and consequently the formation of policies and activities does not reflect much common direction either. At the time of writing there are many activities taking place throughout Europe concerning social innovation and workplace innovation, such as meetings, conferences, policy debates, along with a growing stream of scientific and policy publications. What unites these activities is their commitment to make Europe innovative in economic and social domains at one and the same time. What is needed is a more coherent concept of social innovation. Without concepts and without empirically validated observations we cannot begin to conceive of a theory on the subject. We cannot deliver the theory. What we can and will attempt, however, is to present a concept and some observations on an important instance of social innovation, namely, workplace innovation. To that we now turn.

Workplace Innovation: Its Nature and Characteristics Social innovation as innovation has been largely ignored amongst innovation researchers. Instead, the focus of innovation studies has primarily been on business innovation and technological innovation. Accordingly, we need to discuss further the issue of social innovation in its relation to business innovation and technological innovation. To study the nature of these three kinds of innovation and their interrelations, as well as their social functions, workplace innovation can be an illuminating example. As will be demonstrated by this study, workplace innovation involves elements of social innovation, business innovation, and technological innovation. Therefore, it is an important example of innovation studies, and it will, also, allow us to illustrate its potential in bridging the gap between social innovation (innovation at societal level) and workplace innovation (innovation at organizational level). Workplace innovation is defined as a strategic renewal in organizing and organizational behaviour. It reflects an organizational capability, which consists of four resources: strategic orientation, product-market improvement, flexible work, and smart organizing (Oeij et al. 2010). These innovations have business-conduct purposes and profit-making functions, but their function is not limited to the internal side of performance, they also involve organizational and social functions such as 36 • International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011

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improving the quality of work and the deployment and development of human talents (hence “organizational innovation,” Pot 2011). Workplace innovation deals with renewal in organizations—profit or non-profit—and it can enhance employer and employee interests simultaneously. Thus, productivity, competitive advantage, profit and costs, and the capability to change are examples of employer interests, whereas employability, empowerment, quality of work and working life, and balancing job demands and demands from private life exemplify employee interests (Pot and Vaas 2008a, 2008b). It is important to note that workplace innovation does not include technological innovation, and should be seen as complementary to technological innovation. Workplace innovation simply denotes the embeddedness of technological innovation. Since “workplace innovation” can be perceived as complementary to “technological,” it refers to non-technical innovations within organizations (Hage 1999; Lam 2004; Pot 2011). This is a response to the joint dominance of one-dimensional technological innovations and an equally one-dimensional goal of enhancing competitiveness in economic-financial terms. It has been observed that any innovation that does not take social aspects on board cannot be effective. In consequence, the balance today is shifting towards the innovation of workplaces, stressing the social factor besides, and in combination with, economic and technological goals. In this study, the notion of workplace innovation can be related to the “ResourceBased View of the Firm” (RBV) (Wernerfelt 1984; Barney 1991). The RBV as a theory and a method of analysis deals with the strategic resources available to a firm. By means of four “resources” of workplace innovation—strategic orientation, productmarket improvement, flexible work, organizing smarter—we can capture the notion of an organization’s competitive advantage through a unique combination of assets, the central tenet of the RBV (for an extensive discussion see Oeij et al. 2010). Among these four resources, which together form a unique combination of assets, the factor of strategic orientation relates to the environmental factors of knowledge absorption capacity, external cooperation, and networking. Product-market improvement refers to improving products and services, and finding new markets and clients or customers. Flexible work and organizing smarter constitute the necessary internal variability, that is, the capability to respond to environmental dynamics with internal variety options. The resources strategic orientation and product-market improvement orientation seem to reflect an externally oriented focus (related to strategy, business, and sales), whereas the resources flexible work and organizing smarter seem to be more connected with an internally oriented focus (related to HR and operational management).

An Empirical Case Study on the Role of Workplace Innovation In order to test the nature and functions of workplace innovation, this article adopts a case study as an example to illustrate the relation between business function, technological function, and organizational function. The study was conducted on the base of the Netherlands Employers Work Survey (NEWS), which took place in 2008. The analyses were performed on a sub-sample of the respondents from 2.263 International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011 • 37

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work organizations (Oeij et al. 2009). In the NEWS over 5000 firms are surveyed (mostly via the Internet and partly via a paper and pencil questionnaire) with questions focused on industrial relations and working conditions, a firm’s managerial performance, and its organizational characteristics. By using the survey data, we can further study the nature and features of workplace innovation (see the Appendix on the research background). Based on the NEWS data, we can observe that in general, organizations are “rather active,” with the four resources constituting workplace innovation: strategic orientation, product-market improvement, flexible work, and organizing smarter (see table 1 in the Appendix). It is also clear that organizations that are active in workplace innovation are reporting an improved organizational performance—a combined variable on self-reported improved labor productivity, growth in turnover, and growth in profit/financial results in the last two years. When we compare the four resources of workplace innovation, it appears that organizations show a stronger motivation for product-market improvement and strategic orientation relative to flexible work and organizing smarter. We performed regression analyses to study whether workplace innovation explains improved organizational performance and whether organizations in which workplace innovation has been reported also report a lower employee sickness absence. (See the Appendix for table 2 which presents the means, standard deviations, and correlations and table 3 which presents the regression analyses). Table 3 shows two regression models (M1 and M2). The first model tested if organizational performance and sickness absence are dependent on the presence of ICT/technology. The so-called “productivity paradox” developed by the economist Solow (Brynjolffson 1993) holds that ICT use as an indicator of technology use does not show up in the statistics on productivity and performance. We assume, nonetheless, that ICT use can moderate the relation between social innovation and organizational performance, because ICT frontrunners may be more adroit in anticipating environmental turbulence. Therefore, we analyzed if organizations that score on both workplace innovation and ICT leadership report better organizational performance and lower rates of sickness absence. It turned out, however, that the technology variables hardly have an effect on performance and sickness absence. The productivity paradox is supported by the evidence of our cases. The second model (table 3 in the Appendix) tested if organizational performance and sickness absence can be explained by the presence and impact of the four resources of workplace innovation. The results show that workplace innovation has a clear influence on organizational performance. The effect of each of the separate resources is modest, but their added effect is substantial. It was also clear that workplace innovation has no noteworthy effect on sickness absence. We would like to remark that sickness absence can be affected by many factors not being part of this study, which are largely situated outside the firms. Examples of such factors are an influenza epidemic, sports injuries, insurance and legislation, and individual dispositions. We therefore focus on organizational performance, which is related to workplace innovation, and leave sickness absence at rest, as it is not clearly related to workplace innovation in our sample. From our case study we can conclude the following: (1) 38 • International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011

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technology/ICT use does not show a strong connection to workplace innovation. ICT use does not significantly contribute to organizational performances in this sample. (2) Concerning the “externally oriented” resources of workplace innovation, strategic orientation, and product-market improvement, we observe a more direct relationship with organizational performance when compared to flexible work and organizing smarter. It could be that the effect on organizational performance of the latter two is subject to a time-lag. It takes time for such “internally oriented” interventions to show visible effects in organizations. (3) Workplace innovation matters to an organization’s performance; sickness absence rates, on the other hand, do not seem to benefit directly from workplace innovation. In order to become more competitive (private organizations) or cost-effective (public organizations), activities in the realm of workplace innovation are helpful. These activities are performed by people in organizations; together they constitute these innovations. (Three case studies showing how concrete examples of workplace innovation have resulted in improved productivity can be found in Oeij et al. 2011). Workplace innovation, then, may be the required mechanism for the solicitation and the very bringing about of improved performances.

Conclusion and Discussion Linking Workplace Innovation to Social Innovation and the Theory of Social Quality

This study aimed to introduce today’s discussions on social innovation policies in Europe, and to apply the theory of social quality in this realm. The discussion on social innovation is indicative of a concept that appears to go in too many directions at once. One of these directions, the direction we chose, is workplace innovation, the social innovation of the working environment inside organizations. Given the right environment and given social innovation, workers may—and as our study suggests indeed do—choose more flexible and more productive modes of work and of working together. In this sense, our case study on workplace innovation can be seen as mirroring a macro discussion on a micro scale. How, then, are the concepts of workplace innovation, social innovation, and social quality related? The case study of workplace innovation, and its theoretical underpinnings, indicate that workplace innovation contains elements of innovation that are connected to both business purposes and employee interests. Although its relation with organization, management, and technology is far from clear, it bears relevance for social innovation, in the sense that the meaning of workplace innovation is, to a large extent, the improvement of people’s working environments and working life. It enriches people’s working life and improves the quality thereof. Consequently, there is indeed an essential linkage between working life and social quality, which legitimizes attempts to evaluate the meaning of people’s working life in the perspective of social quality. In our view, there is a clear relationship between workplace innovation and social quality. We are stating that workplace innovation International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011 • 39

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is an exemplar of the links between social innovation and social quality. Workplace innovation deals with the organizational and individual level, while social innovation deals with the organizational and societal level. This implies that the study of social quality should not only focus on the societal level, but also on the organizational and individual levels by observing working conditions and working life, and by studying such environments and their organizational characteristics. In this regard, workplace innovation constitutes and exemplifies what we understand by social meaning, and it could be one way of improving social quality at all three levels: individual, organizational, and societal. Before one can study workplace innovation (within organizations) and social innovation (within societies) by using the social quality theory, a further clarification of the latter’s concepts and operationalizations are required. We have seen that there is “plethora” of definitions of social innovation in use, and that explicit and uniform theorizing on “social” and “innovation” is lacking. As a consequence, social innovation is about everything and nothing at the same time. In the case study on workplace innovation we tried to avoid this “theory-emptiness” and to root this example of social innovation at the organizational level of the management-oriented scientific theory of the Resource-Based Firm. Subsequently we operationalized four dimensions of workplace innovation, which were then observed and measured empirically. Of course one can have a debate about whether the choices we made are scientifically waterproof or not. We did, however, apply a method than can also be used in the field of the theory of social quality. In our view, the theory of social quality can be best applied to practice when it is able to measure what is going on in the real world, with the help of a clearly operationalized set of constructs or dimensions. Given that, the road is free for the study of activities undertaken in the realm of social innovation from the perspective of social quality theory. The theory of social quality would become more powerful if it succeeds to combine societal, institutional (organizational), and individual levels. Although it has an open eye for each of these levels, by respectively discerning socio-economic security and social cohesion, social inclusion and social empowerment (Beck et al. forthcoming; Van der Maesen and Walker 2005; Herrmann 2006), it needs further development concerning the mechanisms at work at these three levels, and how these levels interact with each other. We acknowledge that these mechanisms have so far been absent as well in the attempts to explain social innovation in Europe, therefore the pursuit to identify such mechanisms would be very welcome to both the science and the policymaking around social innovation. Social innovation as applied by the EC is a typical policy theory, by which we mean that it is a normative prescription of a desired state, based on political goals and designed into policy actions and practices to be executed by policy implementers. The blind spot, again, is in the specification of mechanisms, comparable to the mechanism of workplace innovation developed above. After all, policy theories like social innovation are not concerned with increasing scientific knowledge. The policy theory involved is not of a theoretical-explanatory kind (neither deductive nor inductive) but practical and pragmatic (Berting 1979). The present definition of social quality is “the extent to which people are able to participate in social relationships under conditions which enhance their well40 • International Journal of Social Quality • Volume 1 Number 2 • Winter 2011

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being, capacity, and individual potential” (Beck et al. forthcoming). Therefore, social relationships are central, and so are, by implication, the modes in which humans behave and interact. It is exactly at this point, human behaviour, where the theory of social quality can benefit from the complexity theory. Since the theory of social quality is a rather abstract approach the “real people” do not appear in the spotlight. In reality, the kind of organizational experiences which people are engaged in day-to-day are unlikely to be represented in such abstract theories. The primary emphasis on the concept of the noun, “the social” with which the theorists of social quality underpin their divergence from other approaches—quality of life, social capital, capability, human development, social harmony—as well as the present accent on the elaboration of the social quality indicators in Europe and Asia (Lin et al. 2009; Walker and Van der Maesen forthcoming), may be seen as a cause of this lack of representation. Probably the most intriguing challenge to the theory of social quality is the difficulty to thoroughly explain and empirically establish the mechanisms of all possible relations between all possible variables. Beck et al. (forthcoming) state that the elements of the social quality theory are “neither independent of one another nor are they … facets of an indivisible whole” of social quality and “that the issue is one of emphasis.” Unfortunately, this leaves the impression that individuals are not at the centre, despite the assumptions about (1) people being social beings who collectively produce a society in which individuals and society are not in contradiction, but inseparable; and (2) people interacting with each other, these interactions constituting a diversity of collective identities which provide the contexts for their self-realization and which lead to manifestations of the social; the social is produced in a dialectical way, as the consequence of “constitutive interdependency.” Both assumptions can be easily understood as pronunciations on how we as humans experience real life. A Plea for Focusing on Individuals Who Together Constitute Innovations

How can humans be brought back in? We observe that the theory of social quality is, in its basic assumptions that society is both the condition and outcome of human agency and that human agency is both the production and reproduction of society, closely connected with one specific branch of complexity theory, namely the “theory of complex responsive processes” (Stacey 2010: 129–134; see also Mowles, 2011: 240–246). A basic assumption of both theories is that the local interactions of agents produce global patterns at an aggregated level. As agents can be large in number, their interactions abound, and the exact patterns that are constituted are more or less emerging spontaneously, so that what is emerging cannot be predicted. Stacey is keen to emphasize that theory development in general—and in his case in the realm of management science in particular—is hampered by the fact that it is very often not aligned with what humans actually experience. In the example of management science, the dominant management theories assume that managers control how organizations develop by being able to choose what is happening, whereas what most people experience is uncertainty: developments are not taking place as planned. Complexity theory targets the non-linearity of cause and effect relations, and the

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profound unpredictability of outcomes of numerous interactions between many interdependent agents in explaining why this is the case. On top of that, Stacey proposes the importance of social scientific insights from psychology to understand why human agents have such substantial, though highly unconscious, needs for control—not only managers and employees but also theoreticians. Therefore, Stacey suggests the study of how individuals interact in making global patterns in terms of communication, power relations, and identity formation (based amongst others on Elias and Mead), in a way that keeps the individuals and their experience in the picture. Stacey reasons that it is impossible for separate individual agents (manager, politician, policymaker, state agents) to design and implement new futures as if one can control the outcomes and/or the process. This risk of an illusory agency of control could also easily account for the blind spots of researchers and consultants (and the epistemological and ontological points of departure—see Herrmann et al. forthcoming) like ourselves if we fail to take experiences seriously and if we fail to reflexively explore the “complex responsive processes of human relating” (Stacey, 2010: 129–134). The relevance of complexity sciences might be that the theory of social quality, in its ambition to eventually be applicable for practical interventions into “the social,” requires sense making by and for the humans to whom such interventions are relevant. The shift in European policymaking on innovation from technological and economic innovation into the direction of social innovation offers opportunities for an empirical application of the theory of social quality, provided that the latter emphasizes the priority of local interactions in explaining global patterns. Howaldt and Schwarz (2010: 21) argue that innovations occur at the level of social practice, and that a social innovation is a new combination (Schumpeter) and/or new configuration of social practices (Elias) in certain areas of action and social contexts, prompted by certain actors or constellations of actors in an intentional targeted manner (Stacey) with the goal of better satisfying or answering needs and problems than is possible on the basis of established practices. An innovation is therefore social to the extent that it is socially accepted and diffused, and institutionalized as new social practice. In this sense, as Howaldt and Schwarz (2010: 21) say, social innovation can be interpreted as a process of collective creation, which aligns with the assumption of the theory of social quality that, through interaction, people constitute collective identities which form the basis for contexts “leading to manifestations of the social” (Beck et al. forthcoming). Social innovations as such are indicative for social quality. The implication of this endeavour would be placing a new focus on how individuals together constitute innovations.

Acknowledgement The authors would like to thank TNO-colleagues Karolus Kraan and Fietje Vaas, Jan Berting (prof. em. Sociology), and the editors of the journal for their stimulating comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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References Barney, J. 1991. “Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage.” Journal of Management 17(1): 99–120. Beck, W., Van der Maesen, L., and Walker, A. forthcoming. “Theoretical Foundations.” in Social Quality: Theory and Practice, ed. A.C. Walker and L.J.G. van der Maesen. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Berting, J. 1979. “What is the Use of International Comparative Research?” pp. 159–177 in Problems in International Comparative Research in the Social Sciences, ed. J. Berting, F. Geyer and R. Jurkovich. Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press. Brynjolfsson, E. 1993. “The Productivity Paradox of Information Technology. Review and Assessment” Communications of the ACM, December, 36 (12): 67–77. Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA), European Commission. March 2010. Social Innovation as Part of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Executive Summary. Brussels: European Commission. Caulier-Grice, J., Kahn, L., Mulgan, G., Pulford, L., and Vasconcelos, D. 2010. “Study on Social Innovation.” Paper Prepared by the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) and the Young Foundation for the Bureau of European Policy Advisors. Sine Loco: European Union/The Young Foundation. http://socialinnovationexchange.org/node/4959 (accessed 5 October 2011). Cohen, J. 1988, 2nd ed. Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. Hilsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Eeckelaert, L., Dhondt, S., Oeij, P., Pot, F., Nicolescu, G.I., Webster, J. and Elsler, D. forthcoming 2012. “Review of Workplace Innovation and its Relation with Occupational Safety and Health.” Report by Topic Centre – Occupational Safety and Health. Bilbao: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. European Commission. 1999. “Partnership for a New Organization of Work.” Green Paper. Brussels: European Commission. ——— 2001. “Employment and Social Policies: a Framework for Investing in Quality.” Brussels: European Commission. ——— July 2008. “Renewed Social Agenda: Opportunity, Access and Solidarity in 21st Century Europe.” Brussels: European Commission. ——— March 2010. “Europe 2020. A Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.” Brussels: European Commission. ——— October 2010a. “Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative Innovation Union.” Brussels: European Commission. ——— October 2010b. “A Rationale for Action. Accompanying Document to ‘Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative Innovation Union’.” Brussels: European Commission. Hage, J.T. 1999. “Organizational Innovation and Organizational Change.” Annual Review of Sociology 25: 597–622. Herrmann, P. 2006. “Social Quality. Opening Individual Well-being for a Social Perspective.” European Journal of Social Quality 6(1): 27–49. ———, Van der Maesen, L., and Walker, A. forthcoming. “Conceptual Location of Social Quality.” in Social Quality: Theory and Practice, ed. A.C. Walker and L.J.G. van der Maesen. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Howaldt, J. and Schwarz, M. 2010. “Social Innovation. Concepts, Research Fields and International Trends.” Dortmund: Sozialforschungstelle Dortmund, ZWE der TU-Dortmund (May 2010). International Labour Organization, ILO. 2005. “Decent Work Agenda.” Geneva: ILO. Lam, A. 2004. “Organizational Innovation.” pp. 115–147 in The Oxford Handbook of Innovation, ed. J. Fagerberg, D.C. Mowery and R.R. Nelson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Lin, K., Ward, P., and Van der Maesen, L.J.G. 2009. “Social Quality Theory in Perspective.” Development and Society 38(2): 201–208. Mowles, C. 2011. Rethinking Management. Radical Insights from the Complexity Sciences. Surrey (UK) and Burlington (VT): Gower. Oeij, P.R.A., De Looze, M.P., Ten Have, K., Van Rhijn, J.W., and Kuijt-Evers, L.F.M. 2012. “Developing the Organisation’s Productivity Strategy in Various Sectors of Industry.” International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management 61(1), 93–109. ———, De Vroome, E.M.M., Sanders, J.M.A.F., and Vanden Bossche, S.N.J. 2009. Netherlands Employers Work Survey (Werkgevers Enquête Arbeid) 2008: Methodology and Descriptive Results. Hoofddorp: TNO (in Dutch). ———, Dhondt, S., and Wiezer, N.M. 2006. “Organisational Conditions for Low Stress-Risk Jobs: Europe’s Case.” European Journal of Social Quality 6(2): 81–108. ———, Kraan, K.O., and Vaas, F. 2010. “Impact of Social Innovation on Organizational Performance and Sickness Absence.” Paper presented at XVIIIth ISA World Congress of Sociology “Sociology on the move”, July 11–17, in Gothenborg, Sweden. Sociological Abstracts, No. 2010S03162. http://www.isa-sociology.org/congress2010/isa-gothenburg-2010-book-ofabstracts-supplement.pdf (accessed 5 October 2011). Phills, J.A., Deiglmeier, K., and Miller, D.T. 2008. “Rediscovering Social Innovation.” Stanford Social Innovation Review Fall: 34–43. Pol, E. and Ville, S. 2009. “Social Innovation: Buzz Word or Enduring Term?” The Journal of SocioEconomics 38: 878–885. Pot, F. 2011. “Workplace Innovation for Better Jobs and Performance.” International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management 60(4): 404–415. ——— and Vaas, F. 2008a. “Social Innovation: The Dutch Experience. Integrating Productivity, Innovation, Employment and Flexibility.” Personalführung 7: 40–46. ——— and Vaas, F. 2008b. “Social Innovation, the New Challenge for Europe.” International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management 57(6): 468–473. Stacey, R.D. 2010. Complexity and Organizational Reality. Uncertainty and the Need to Rethink Management after the Collapse of Investment Capitalism. London and New York: Routledge. Van der Maesen, L.G.J. and Walker, A.C. 2005. “Indicators of Social Quality. Outcomes of the European Scientific Network.” European Journal of Social Quality 5(1/2): 8–24. Walker, A.C., and Van der Maesen, L.J.G., eds. forthcoming. Social Quality: Theory and Practice. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Wernerfelt, B. 1984. “A Resource-Based View of the Firm.” Strategic Management Journal 5: 171– 180.

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Appendix: Background of the Research The WEA (Werkgevers Enquête Arbeid, in English: NEWS, Netherlands Employers Work Survey) systematically collects data on work and employment in establishments of profit as well as non-profit organizations in the Netherlands (Oeij et al. 2009). The WEA is a two-yearly representative survey among 5000 establishments counting two or more employees. The aim is to monitor the employer policy developments in work and employment issues. The WEA uses a cross-sectional random sample of Dutch establishments, stratified on branch and establishment size. The respondents are either the director-owner or the HR manager of an establishment. The WEA addresses the following themes: – Organizational characteristics – Working conditions – Employment and industrial relations – Social security – Organizational developments (social innovation, hierarchy, flexibilization, ICT) – Personnel and HR policy (social employment, integral health management) – Performance and output (productivity, turnover/profit, sickness absence) The hypotheses were tested with data gathered from late 2008 to the beginning of 2009. Respondents, first screened by telephone, received an Internet link or postal questionnaire upon declaring their commitment to cooperate. A cross-sectional random sample of Dutch establishments was taken from a database with Dutch establishments. The response rate was 35 percent (5.387 cases). The sample has been weighed by branch and size. The analyses were performed on a sub-sample, because the questionnaire items on social innovation were exclusively addressed to organizations with ten or more employees, for the reason that smaller firms normally do not have formalized organizational policies of this kind (2.263 cases). Of the establishments in the sub-sample (referred to as organizations) 45 percent employ 10–49 employees, 20 percent 50–99 employees and 35 percent more than 100 employees. As a consequence of the selection criterion of a minimum of ten employees, rather large shares of the sample come from Industry (19%), Commercial Services (16%), Healthcare and Welfare (11%), Trade (11%), and Education (10%). Smaller portions stem from the Construction Industry and Transport and Communication (each 7%), “Other” Services (such as the culture industry) (6%), Hotel and Catering (5%), Public Sector (4%), Financial Services (3%) and Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (1%). For further technical research details see Oeij, Kraan and Vaas (2010).

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Table 1: Analysis of the Relation of Sector Total and Sector Size with Workplace Innovation and ICT/Technology 10–49 employees

50–99 employees

100+ employees

Total

Workplace innovation (average score)

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.5

Strategic orientation (1 = not at all; –5 = to a very large extent)

3.7

3.7

3.8

3.7

Flexible work (1 = not at all; -5 = to a very large extent) (mean)

3.00

3.02

3.10

3.0

Organizing smarter (1=not at all; –5 = to a very large extent)

3.3

3.3

3.4

3.3

Product-market improvement (1 = not at all; –5 = to a very large extent)

3.8

3.7

3.7

3.8

67

69

75 ▲

68

27%

24%

26%

27%

Assembly line (% users, at least weekly)

2.1% ▼▼▼

4.9% ▲

5.6% ▲▲

2.7%

Process control directed ICT (% present)

85% ▼▼▼

93% ▲

94% ▲

86.9%

Collaboration/communication directed ICT (0 = absent; –1 = both present)

0.60 ▼▼▼

0.76 ▲▲

0.79 ▲▲▲

0.63

PCs (% users, at least weekly)

Computer controlled/supporting technology (% users, at least weekly)

Note: Percentages are column-percentages, tested with Pearson Chi-square test. Means are tested with t-test. Contrast used is: “subgroup” vs “other cases.”

▲: p