Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Innovation Adoption Decisions: The Effect of Problem Solving Styles and Social Support

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Innovation Adoption Decisions: The Effect of Problem Solving Styles and Social Support

Article excerpt


Organizations are constantly presented with problems and challenges that require innovative solutions. Human resource management innovations (HRMI) occur in the areas of recruiting and selection; appraisal; training and development; rewards and benefits; organizational design; and communication (Wolfe, 1995). Although problems and challenges exist in these areas that require innovative solutions, many employees will choose not to accept the challenge to seek new ideas. Many managers at both top and lower levels are satisfied with the status quo. Typically, managers become involved in the innovation process only when they are familiar with the area of the problem and feel they have the expertise to get involved (Daft, 1978).

Previous research has demonstrated that the innovator problem solving style is positively related to informational support from within and outside the organization (Nelson & Brice, 2008). They also found some support for the moderating effect of emotional social support on the relationship between informational social support and personal involvement in the innovation. In this study, we extend those findings and hypothesize that managers who seek new ideas and become involved in innovation as a solution to a problem have an innovative problem solving style. In essence, some employees are willing to take risks and become involved in resolving problems (innovators) while others are quite risk-averse (the status quo). Further, we postulate that in order to facilitate adoption of innovations, managers must have both emotional and informational support from both within and outside of the organization.


Organizational innovation research has been generally confined to three areas: 1) the spread or diffusion of an innovation; 2) the determinants of innovativeness; and 3) the process of innovation (Wolfe, 1994). Research on diffusion has typically tried to understand what factors affect the rate of diffusion of innovations, while previous research on the determinants of innovativeness focused on the difference between early and late adopters (Abrahamson, 1991). Process research focused on changes in an organization's technology and has expanded its perspective to identify and investigate the stages of innovation, as well as to describe the conditions, which facilitate innovative processes (Ettlie & Reza, 1992). None of these areas of research provides any explanation for individual behavioral effects during the innovation process.

In spite of the various approaches to examining innovation, no general theory of innovation exists in the current literature (Drazin & Schoonhoven, 1996). Downs and Mohr (1976) suggested that there is no theory of innovation because of conceptual and methodical issues. They argued that many conceptual problems occur when considering whether primary or secondary attributes of innovations should be utilized in theory building. Primary attributes are those that are inherent in an innovation, while secondary attributes are those that could vary from organization to organization, such as routine versus radical, or major versus minor innovations. Secondary attributes should be used in the innovative-decision design to determine the circumstances influencing a decision to innovate (Downs & Mohr, 1976).

Rogers (1962; 1995) used secondary attributes and developed an innovative-decision design that describes the innovation process. An individual goes from knowledge of an innovation, to forming an attitude about the innovation, to a decision to accept or reject the innovation, to implementation of the innovation, and finally to confirmation of the decision. Knowledge occurs when the individual becomes aware of the innovation and has some general information about its use. Based on his/her limited knowledge of the innovation, the individual forms a favorable or unfavorable opinion in the persuasion stage. …

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