Department of
Sociology

Center for
Innovation

Organizational Theory and Research about Innovation

Through the lens of concern about innovation, the Center is interested in identifying new concepts and to solve new problems in the study of organizations. One new concept is the definition of transformational organizations, that is organizations capable of making transformational technologies and scientific breakthroughs. In the U.S. a recent report of the National Academy of Science prompted several senators to meet at the White House to discuss how to create transformational discoveries (press release of Senator Domenici, December 15, 2005).With this objective, two research papers have recently been published. The book Restoring the Innovative Edge: Driving the evolution of science and technology has several case studies including the important one of SEMTECH.

In particular, there has been increasing recognition of the need to study research organizations as a special category. The NSF study of national research laboratories is our attempt to speak to this need. Within this context, we are also attempting to solve a major epistemological problem, namely defining the boundaries of a research team on the basis of the kinds of problems that have to be solved. Another issue is examining how the national research laboratories have been coping with the problem of over coming the problem of the valley of death, that is, the capacity of moving scientific ideas into commercialized products. We have begun a series of papers from our large data sets on scientists in public research laboratories. In this data set, we have found that the problem of motivation is great for scientists working in large research laboratories.

Still another quite interesting organizational problem in the study of innovation is the resolution of Nooteboom’s Dilemma. He posits that as the diversity of cognitive perspectives increases, which is necessary for radical or transformational innovations, communication tends to decline, which prevents the achievement of this objective. We are working on a paper that explores mechanisms for resolving this dilemma.

With this in mind, the Center for Innovation is developing a theory about research organizations with the following highlights:

  • What are the characteristics of transformational research organizations, that is research organizations with high rates of radical innovation and that can transform their scientific environments?
  • What kinds of research projects/organizations are there and how should they be managed?
  • What impact does organizational changes of various kinds have on the innovation performance in research organizations?

Recent Conference Presentations

  • Jonathan Mote. 2011. "Few Projects Are Islands: Issues with the Use of Project Funding in Science Policy." Presented at the Atlanta Science and Innovation Conference, September 13-17, Atlanta, GA.
  • Jonathan Mote. 2010. "A Project by Any Other Name: Issues with the Use of Project Funding in Science Policy." Presented at the APPAM Annual Fall Conference, November 4-6, Boston, MA.
  • Jonathan Mote. 2010. "Examining Multiplexity in a Research Organization." Presented at the Sunbelt International Network Conference, June 29-July 4, Lake Garda, Italy.

Relevant Publications include

  • Transformational Organizations and a Burst of Scientific Breakthroughs: Institut Pasteur and Biomedicine, 1889-1918 (with Jonathan Mote) 2010. Social Science History, July
  • Hage, J.; Jordan, G., Mote, J.; Whitestone, Y. 2008. Designing and Facilitating R&D Collaboration: The Balance of Diversity and Integration. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management 25(4):256-268.
  • Mote, J., Y. Whitestone, G. Jordan and J. Hage. 2008. Perceptions of the Research Environment: Examining the Role of Researchers’ Networks. International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy 4(3):246-264.
  • Hage, J.; Jordan, G., and Mote, J. 2007. “R&D Integration: How to Build a Diverse and Integrated Knowledge Community.” Proceedings of the Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology.
  • Hage, Jerald and Jonathon Mote. 2008. "Transformational Organizations and Institutional Change: The Case of the Institut Pasteur and French Science." Socio-economic Review. 6(2):313-336.