Research in Stage 3 (2011-2013)
The research at HELIX is conducted within five Knowledge Platforms, also called Research Clusters. Each cluster contains a number of projects that can be small, large, short or long-term in its character. The following is a presentation of the five research clusters. For more information on the specific projects, please contact the Research leader for each cluster.
Production and Organization Development in Industry and Public Sector Organizations.
Research Leaders: Jörgen Eklund, Mattias Elg, Henrik Kock, Lennart Svensson
A main focus of this cluster concerns how ideas travel and change, and how organizations develop and change (partly in response to new ideas). In the field of production and organizational development, new concepts are introduced continuously and spread worldwide. One example is how Japanese production concepts spread to Sweden and other countries in the world. Many organizations introduce Japanese Lean Production, both industry and the public sector (Liker, 2004). Establishment of multinational organizations with new production philosophies in different cultures is not free from problems (Niepce & Molleman, 1996). Thus, better knowledge of these processes and their consequences for working life are needed. How are these concepts communicated between countries and between organizations? What are the mechanisms that lead to the fact that organizations actually make use of these concepts? What factors contribute to the sustainability of such changes?
This is a major concern not only for practitioners but also for researchers that strive to understand the central problems of designing, developing, establishing and making management concepts sustainable. Organizational development takes place from different perspectives, e.g. competence development, quality development, production development, working life development and development of health and working conditions. There is a great need to integrate these approaches, to integrate development for different stakeholder interests and to adapt the development to contextual and cultural influences. Also, broad multi-factorial implementations of change have been shown to give better effects than limited (Karsh et al., 2001). The aim is that the research should contribute to the development of new theories and usable knowledge for the process of adapting and developing organizations, considering health, learning, innovation, and also individuals’ working conditions as well as organizational performance.
Learning for Change and Innovation
Research Leaders: Per-Erik Ellström, Henrik Kock, Per Nilsen, Lennart Svensson
The importance of researching and promoting learning in organizations may be argued from different perspectives; for example, in order to promote innovation, to support mobility, and to increase the employability of the work force. This is mirrored by the high priority that issues about learning and competence development in working life have in policy deliberations such as those involving the EU Commission, many governments, and unions.
A general assumption behind this cluster project is that work contexts need to be designed not only from a production perspective, but also as from a learning and innovation perspective. There is considerable support for this assumption. Considering specifically learning as a driving force for innovations in organizations, Lundvall and co-workers (e.g. Lundvall, 2007) has shown the limitations of the traditional knowledge triangle, that is, the triangle of research, education and innovation. As argued by Jensen et al. (2007), ideas about a direct transfer of research-based knowledge into innovation processes are normally misleading. What seems to be needed, according to this research, is rather a broader view of knowledge transfer and innovation processes that presupposes learning and competence development among employees in organizations.
The aim of this cluster is to increase our understanding of learning in organizations and the effects of such learning, but also how to support and manage learning in organizational settings. A major research question that is common for several of the studies is to explore the idea of the workplace as an environment for learning and innovation (and not only as a site for production), and under what conditions and with what methods it is possible to promote developmental (innovative) learning at work. That is, learning that stimulates experimentation, the generation of new knowledge and novel solutions.
Health, Competence and Work Ability.
Research Leaders: Kerstin Ekberg, Per-Erik Ellström, Jörgen Eklund, Maria Gustavsson, Christian Ståhl
This cluster concerns conditions for health, well-being and ability to work to promote sustainability at a labor market characterized by continuous change, development and increasing demands on individual competence development. There is a strong evidence base showing that work is generally good for physical and mental health and well-being. Overall, the beneficial effects of work outweigh the risks of work, and are greater than the harmful effects of long-term unemployment or prolonged sickness absence (Waddell and Burton 2006).
Health and work ability is not an individual issue, rather, in this cluster, health is considered a result of the dynamic interaction between organizational conditions, work place conditions and individual resources. Social exchange theories (e.g. Siegrist 2005) suggest that people strive for reciprocity in their interpersonal and organizational relationships to retain health, underscoring the need for mutual interactions between e.g. management and employees. At the organizational level e.g. new forms for organization, as New Public Management and Lean Production may affect work place conditions, conditions for leadership, and place new demands on the employee. Classical epidemiologic risk studies define the balance between demands and control, or effort and reward, as critical for prevention of disease, but the models do not capture conditions for health as a resource; i.e. the individual´s ability to act and her scope for action (Nordenfelt 1996). The processes at the work place, involving organizational conditions for learning, competence development and empowerment are essential for the ability to act, for learning, and for flexibility in meeting new demands. Organizational and work place conditions may hence affect the individual´s scope for action and her health and ability to be productive.
Research on how leadership actually supports health and performance is essentially lacking. How leadership is is performed is in itself not context-free, but rather dependent on both individual and organizational factors as shown by e.g. Lundqvist et al (2010). Leadership may affect how specific health related work characteristics as participation, responsibility, flexibility, role clarity, demands, communication, etc., develop. Research on how working conditions affect health is fairly comprehensive (Härenstam et al 2006), while knowledge about effects on health and production due to different organizational principles and different conditions for leadership essentially is lacking.
For employees who become ill not only the work place conditions, but also the complex processes in the welfare system are at stake. Disability and return-to-work is a complex phenomenon which is influenced by interaction between the worker on sick leave, the workplace, the healthcare system and the compensation system (Loisel et al 2002).
Recent research implies that the workplace plays a significant role when it comes to return-to-work and it is important to link the return-to-work interventions into the work site. However, there are few studies on how workplace-based interventions are implemented in organizations and how the different stakeholders involved in the process collaborate.
The aim of this cluster is to elucidate effects of different forms of work organization on conditions for leadership, work conditions and employee health and production. Another aim of the cluster is to improve knowledge about how the welfare-system, and individual characteristics interact with work place characteristics in t disability management and return to work for those on sick leave.
New Forms of Organization – New Ways to Organize.
Research Leaders: Elisabeth Sundin, Malin Tillmar, Anna Fogelberg-Eriksson, Johanna Nählinder
It is often said that change is – paradoxically – the only constant state. Concerning organizational change and mobility in contemporary working life, there is a great deal of truth in that statement. This cluster focuses on the organizational level of analysis. Change on all levels (global, national, organizational and individual) both create and are created by organizational change. This is touched upon in most HELIX projects, but this cluster deal specifically with the organizational dimensions of the on-going changes.
These processes, ongoing among the Partners involved in HELIX, create new forms of organizations and new ways to organize but also new ways of labeling old organizations and established ways to organize. Often the verb organizing is more adequate than the noun organization and new boarder-lines aiming at the construction, or deconstruction, of identities rather than work tasks. The projects in the cluster concern all these dimensions. In them new ways to organize within and between existing organizations as well as new organizational forms emerging are described and analysed. The mobility of the organizational landscape, as well as its impact on entrepreneurship and gender, is interpreted by use of mainly organizational perspectives.
Although organizational concepts and models are global, they are implemented in local practices. In theoretical terms, models are “translated” on their journeys through the organizations and between contexts (Czarnaiwska & Sevon, 1996). In the early 2010s, many HELIX partners both in the private and the public sector illustrate this. The local outcomes demand local studies. Consequently, the most accurate method is to conduct empirical studies on the local level, at the workplaces, in order to describe and interpret the processes and their outcomes. The way the labor market works and the way industry and commerce as well as the public sector works can only be fully understood by studying the arenas where it all happens, the organizations. Local level case studies involving the HELIX Partners is therefore the dominating method used in all projects in this cluster, even though this is complemented by statistical data when necessary. As indicated above projects found under other headlines also give valuable contributions to knowledge concerning organizations and organizing.
As a summary; The aim of this cluster is to develop new knowledge and understanding on what is going on in working life from an organizational perspective. Through including organization of different kinds and both intra- and interorganizational relations previous theories will be challenged and new will probably emerge.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Research Leaders: Magnus Klofsten, Göran Brulin, Elisabeth Sundin, Malin Tillmar
A common objective of economic development efforts everywhere in the world is the creation of an ‘Entrepreneurial Region’. Such regions have the capability to move across technological paradigms and periodically renew themselves through new technologies and businesses generated from its economical base (Etzkowitz and Klofsten, 2005). A good example here is the Öresund Region (Sweden/Denmark), which has a high concentration of bio-medical research and an emerging bio-medical industry. The ‘Twin Cities of Sweden – Linköping and Norrköping’ (4:e storstadsregionen) has over the past 25 years succeeded in bringing new ideas emanating from research and other knowledge intensive activities into new businesses in terms of independent firm, licensing agreements and internal ventures not only in the private, but also in the public sector. Most recognized is the high amount of spin-off firms from Linköping University, which has been a strong foundation for the growth and development of Mjärdevi and Norrköping science parks.
There is, from a scientific as well as practical point of view an emerging interest in investigating the necessary conditions for creating new businesses, and the renewal capabilities of a supporting infrastructure on a regional basis. Perhaps one of the most important factors is the presence of an entrepreneurial university that both advances emerging areas of knowledge and puts this knowledge to use in developing the local region (Clark, 1998). The emergence of university-industry-government interactions – the Triple Helix – can also be identified as a key factor in regional development (Etzkowitz, 2005). Beyond research capacity in emerging and interdisciplinary fields with potential for the development and realisation of new ideas is the capability to effectively utilize these knowledge resources. This innovation capacity is largely dependent on the construction and institutionalisation of a heterogeneous network of public/private entities that can provide business formation expertise, gap funding, seed capital and “collective entrepreneurship” (Johannisson, 2003).
Relatively few regions have developed the vision, the inter-institutional relationships and leadership to transcend existing techno-economic paradigms (Dosi, 2000, Frykfors, 2010)). Indeed, strong conservative forces such as large firms in existing industries, and their academic and government supporters, often retard change by using up much of the resources needed to make the transition (Etzkowitz and Klofsten, 2005). Not least the huge investments by EU and national governments in innovation and entrepreneurial development programmes calls for a much better understanding and knowledge of how to support the creation of entrepreneurial regions. Lundström, et al (2008) argues that such programmes should be run in tandem to raise the odds of reaching the goals. Svensson, et al (2009), mean that programmes often lack proper learning approaches that would make them supportive of innovation and entrepreneurship in an iterative process. Not least at EU level there is a demand for concepts and knowledge that grasp such learning processes.
To understand the underlying structures and processes of entrepreneurial regional developments this cluster project strongly addresses the usages of a bottom-up approach primarily addressing the individual and organisational levels as a unit of analysis. Another important aspect is to consider the aims of the HELIX project where a particular interest is the mobility dimension for example of people, ideas and knowledge (Lundmark, 2010). An interactive approach is standard within Helix and it constitutes a practical application of the mobility concept. The vision is that the cluster becomes a seedbed for knowledge development and a continuous flow of new ideas within the frame of the cluster topic, with the aim of international recognition.
Last updated: 2012-04-26