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Work functions shaping the ability to innovate: insights from the case of the safety engineer
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.), Machine Design (Div.).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5704-4504
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Industrial Management.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9709-540X
2019 (English)In: Cognition, Technology & Work, ISSN 1435-5558, E-ISSN 1435-5566Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

To perform as intended, firms are divided into work functions that contribute to the behaviour-shaping constraints under which individuals build their skills, knowledge and networks. These in turn provide a specialized perspective on organisational structure and culture. In a mixed methods study involving interviews and statistical analyses, we investigate whether a work function can thereby affect individuals’ innovation foci and efficacy. Safety engineers, central to firms developing Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), are shown to play a significant role in identifying and supporting viable innovation related to organisational aspects. Results indicate that safety engineers could use the firm’s collaborative innovation process to facilitate organisational learning, helping different work functions come together to construct working practices aligned with the organisational values of the firm. This is explained by their understanding of safety culture—a specialized understanding of organisational culture and complexity provided by their work function. We conclude that work functions that provide their members with a perspective well aligned with their firm’s organisational values can instil the ability to identify and support organisational innovation. This suggests that safety engineers in CPS domains could be effective in a mediatory role, facilitating innovative changes to organisational structures and processes when introducing and operating safety management systems. Stronger aspects of organisational liaising and systems thinking could reinforce this ability—the former by a wider scope and motivation leading to an increased skill in communicating with dissimilar individuals, and the latter by providing the skills and tools needed to analyse the politics of complex organisations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Heidelberg, Germany, 2019.
Keywords [en]
Administrative innovation, Behaviour-shaping constraints, Cognitive systems engineering, Organisational culture, Organisational learning, Safety engineering
National Category
Embedded Systems
Research subject
Electrical Engineering; Industrial Economics and Management; Machine Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-264584DOI: 10.1007/s10111-019-00616-wOAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-264584DiVA, id: diva2:1374426
Note

QC 20191202

Available from: 2019-12-01 Created: 2019-12-01 Last updated: 2019-12-02Bibliographically approved

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Publisher's full texthttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10111-019-00616-w

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Asplund, FredrikUlfvengren, Pernilla
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