Social innovation is becoming a core value of the EU flagship initiative Innovation Union, but it is not clearly demarcated as it covers a wide field of topics. To understand social innovation within European policymaking a brief outline is given of EC policy developments on innovation and on workplace innovation. Definitions of social innovation formulated at the societal level and the organizational or workplace level are discussed. Empirical research findings of workplace innovation in the Netherlands are presented as examples showing that workplace innovation activities boost organizational performance. The article explores the relation between workplace innovation and social innovation, and concludes that policy developments in the EU can be studied with the theory of social quality, provided that the latter in its empirical approach focuses on how individuals together constitute innovations.
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Peter R. A. Oeij, Steven Dhondt, and Ton Korver
Investing in Workplace Innovation Pays Off for SMEs
A Regional Innovation Initiative from the Netherlands
Peter Oeij, Ernest de Vroome, Astrid Bolland, Rob Gründemann, and Lex van Teeffelen
From 2009 to 2013 the workplace innovation project “My Enterprise 2.0” was carried out in the region of Utrecht in the Netherlands in order to strengthen the workplace innovation capability of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Participating enterprises completed a questionnaire regarding the “workplace innovativeness” of their company. A workplace innovation intervention was then implemented by some of the companies, while other companies chose not to take part. At the end of the project, a second questionnaire indicated that those companies that implemented interventions had a significantly higher score with regard to overall workplace innovativeness. The companies without such interventions reported a small decrease. While the companies in the region had higher workplace innovativeness scores relative to a national reference group both before and after the project, the increase in the “workplace innovativeness” of the regional SMEs that experienced interventions suggests that the project proved beneficial to their continued “workplace innovativeness.” Moreover, these companies also reported positive effects on company performance, achieving company goals and improving labor productivity.