Innovative Workplaces

Innovative Workplaces

Making Better Use of Skills within Organisations You do not have access to this content

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Author(s):
OECD
Publication Date :
04 Nov 2010
Pages :
148
ISBN :
9789264095687 (PDF) ; 9789264095670 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/9789264095687-en

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As human capital is the source of innovation, one of the policy principles of the OECD Innovation Strategy is to "foster innovative workplaces". Education and training systems must rise to the challenge of providing people with the means to learn and re-train throughout their life. Companies and organisations need to maximise the human resources they have at their disposal.

Do employers make the best use of people’s skills for innovation? Are some work organisations more associated with innovation than others? If so, are these organisations more widespread in some countries than in others? Are they associated with particular labour market policies, managerial practices, learning cultures or certain levels of education? What are the challenges for innovation within organisations?
This volume shows that interaction within organisations - as well as individual and organisational learning and training - are important for innovation. The analytical tools and empirical results this study provides show how some work organisations may foster innovation through the use of employee autonomy and discretion, supported by learning and training opportunities.

Innovative Workplaces will be of interest to policy makers in the fields of education, employment and innovation as well as business leaders, academics and all readers interested in social issues.

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    Foreword
    Human capital is at the heart of innovation. It is people who transform their creativity, knowledge and skills into innovations. We generally conclude that if education and training systems supply our societies and economies with well trained people, new ideas will bloom and innovation will thrive. This is true, but only if there is an appropriate environment, in particular companies and organisations that take advantage of the talent and innovative capacity of the people they employ. Designing organisations and management practices that are conducive to innovation is part of the challenge.
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    Introduction
    While innovation is widely recognised by OECD countries as an important engine of growth (OECD, 2010), the underlying approach to innovation has been changing, shifting away from models largely focused on R&D in knowledge-based globalised economies. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of how organisations build up resources for innovation has become a crucial challenge to finding new ways of supporting innovation in all areas of economic activity. In support of this widened approach to innovation analysis and policy, this report provides analytical tools and empirical results designed to open the black box of what is a learning organisation.
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    Introduction
    While innovation is widely recognised by OECD countries as an important engine of growth (OECD, 2010), the underlying approach to innovation has been changing, shifting away from models largely focused on R&D in knowledge-based globalised economies. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of how organisations build up resources for innovation has become a crucial challenge to finding new ways of supporting innovation in all areas of economic activity. In support of this widened approach to innovation analysis and policy, this report provides analytical tools and empirical results designed to open the black box of what is a learning organisation.
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    Defining learning organisations and learning cultures
    This chapter reviews the research literature on learning organisations. After briefly recalling the historical link to the notion of organisational learning, it reviews the related management literature, showing that much of it is normative and concerned with the development of diagnostic tools that can be used by managers to assess and improve the learning capabilities of their organisations. It stresses the importance given to the notion of "learning culture", defined as a set of shared beliefs, values and attitudes favourable to learning. This management literature is only weakly linked to an empirical research program designed to observe and measure the extent to which existing firms display the characteristics of learning organisations.
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    Mapping learning organisations and their characteristics for the European Union
    This chapter maps the importance of learning organisations at the national and EU levels. Learning organisations are defined as organisations where high levels of autonomy in work are combined with high levels of learning, problem-solving and task complexity. A series of policy relevant issues associated with the unequal spread of learning forms of work organisation across nations are then discussed: the relation of employee learning to national innovation style and performance; the link between the use of learning forms of work organisation and the national institutional context, including the development of systems of continuing vocational education and training; the structure of labour markets; and level of expenditure on different labour market policies. At the micro-level, the analysis attempts to shed light on the complex relation between employee learning, the use of different human resource management policies, and organisational culture, defined in terms of the beliefs and attitudes held by employees.
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    Measuring trends
    This chapter assesses the trends of work characteristics associated with learning organisations over 1995, 2000 and 2005 for EU15 countries. Finding an average decreasing trend in EU15, driven by results in Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain, it then tries to uncover this work complexity paradox by taking into account structural factors influencing work complexity at the individual and country level. Four possible culprits that are not measured in the available databases are discussed: standardisation, job polarisation, organisational change and self-reported overqualification. The first two explanations make the assumption that the decreasing trend in work complexity is an objective phenomenon; the two others explore how it could be related to subjective assessments of persons in employment.
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    Behind innovation
    This chapter focuses on the issues faced by organisations that are willing to encourage innovative work behaviours and organisational learning processes. The trade-offs that employers face when they decide to make new strategic decisions implying some changes in work methods, organisational structure, products or processes are first described. Then what happens on the employee side is considered.
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    Conclusion
    This report began with a survey of the literature on learning organisations in order to provide greater definitional clarity. Although the literature is highly disparate and there is nothing like a unified definition or concept of the learning organisation that has been developed and empirically tested in a cumulative manner, some common definitional ground has been identified.
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