Organizational Change and Innovation Processes: Theory and Methods for Research

Article excerpt

Poole, M. A., Van de Ven, A. H., Dooley, K., & Holmes, M. E. (2000) Organizational Change and Innovation Processes: Theory and Methods for Research. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Change in organizations has been an intriguing concept for organizational researchers. There are entire journals (e.g., Journal of Organizational Change Management) devoted to this topic. Change has been viewed from a wide range of theoretical perspectives. However, one area that seems relatively devoid of change research is the area of process research. This book addresses that area. It begins with a review of the literature on change and, in particular, details the challenges of developing a process theory of innovation that arose in the Minnesota Innovation Research Program beginning in the early 1980s. The major portion of the book is dedicated to detailing appropriate research methods for those who would do process research.

Several useful tables are found throughout the book that provide convenient summaries of the textual material. For example, in Chapter 1, Perspectives on Change and Development in Organizations, on page 15, a table appears that compares the strengths and weaknesses of three typical research designs in this content area. This is followed on pages 20 and 21 by a table that presents a summary of the researchers and models of organizational development found in organizational studies. These two tables include the thrust of the first chapter and allow the authors to go on to define specific terminology and to present the ordering of the rest of the book.

Definitions of process theories and the textual explanations of several theories are provided in Chapter 2. The definitions are clear and the structure of the book makes following the arguments relatively easy. The variance approach to social science research is compared to the process approach. The table found on page 36 illustrates the similarities and differences of these two approaches. Simply put, the variance approach to social science research uses explanations that specify the independent variables causing changes in a dependent variable. The process approach presents an explanation that details a story about how a sequence of events unfolds to produce a given outcome. The majority of this chapter is used to demonstrate the need for more research using a process approach to understanding social science issues. The requirement for doing process research included 5 components: (1) Events need to be classified into meaning types on a consistent and valid basis; (2) Sequences of events need to be compared and classified; (3) The dependencies in the temporal sequences need to be established. These can be regularities that suggest that there is some generative mechanism, longitudinal relationships among the events in the sequences, or event-to-event chaining; (4) The final outcome of the process must be known before any statement of formal or final causality can be made; and (5) The coherent pattern that enable others to comprehend all of the data in a single act of understanding is then synthesized and presented.

The authors then suggest a typology of four ideal types of social change process models. These four ideal-types are presented in a table that allows for the comparisons of the characteristics of each type. The four ideal-types are: (1) a life cycle model; (2) an evolution model; (3) a dialectic model; and (4) a teleology model. Metaphorically these models are presented, respectively, as being like an organic growth pattern, a competitive survival amongst members of an identified population, the tension-resolved-tension found in the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis processes, and the goal directed cooperation that may have equifinality properties. …


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