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


Previous innovation research has focused on organizational factors that lead to the adoption of an innovation. However, there has been little research on individual and behavioral factors in the innovation adoption process. Typically, many innovations are proposed each year for implementation consideration by organizations. However, only some are adopted while many others are not. It is possible that the fate of an organization may be determined by its ability to infuse itself with new ideas as problems occur or to anticipate changes that might produce challenges to it. Managers with innovator problem solving styles may be essential to whether, or not, an innovation is adopted. Further, innovations that may be effective for the organization might not be implemented without support from other stakeholders. Thus, managers must have effective work relationships and support from people both internal and external to the organization.

This study investigates how the personal involvement of change agents in the organization (innovators) relates to their problem solving style, social support patterns, and innovation adoption decisions. Results indicate that while the innovator problem solving style is positively related to both internal and external forms of informational and emotional social support, only the external forms of social support are associated with the adoption of innovations. Research contributions and implications about the importance of social networks for innovators are discussed.


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. …

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