Employee innovative behavior: a conceptual framework.

AuthorJain, Ravindra

This article attempts to synthesize the results of previous research on innovative behavior at work that appeared scattered and integrate such results into a cohesive whole. The proposed framework is a multi-component construct which provides holistic view of various factors that affect employee innovative behavior. Such factors have been categorized into individual, interpersonal and contextual. Psychological capital and psychological empowerment have been identified as individual factors whereas transformational leadership and leader-member exchange, and knowledge sharing in social network are put under the category of inter-personal factors. Job context and supportive organizational climate emerged as contextual factors.


Innovative behavior on the part of a large number of employees is significant for sustainable performance for all kinds of enterprises and for a variety of jobs therein. Therefore, the philosophy of innovation needs to be embedded in the organizational culture. "The foundation of innovation is ideas, but it is people who develop, carry, react to, and modify ideas" (Van de Ven 1986:592) and they require novel and divergent thinking whereby they contribute to transform their novel and useful ideas into developing processes, products or services of better quality. "Employees can contribute to innovation in organizations in numerous ways, but the three are particularly common and stand out as important across a wide array of organizations and industries: generating new ideas, sharing ideas with colleagues / supervisors and spreading innovation throughout the organization, and working to implement those innovations themselves or helping others to do so" (Ng & Feldman, 2010 : 1068). All these actions constitute innovative behavior at work. It may be defined as "individuals' behaviors directed towards the initiation and intentional introduction of new and useful ideas and processes, products or procedure within a work role, group or organization" (De Jong, 2006: 19). Innovation is the process by which new and applicable ideas generated through one's creativity and then such ideas are captured, recognized, filtered, clarified, modified, further developed, and finally commercialized and the process also includes overcoming a variety of obstacles that come in the way and it is the creativity that fuels the conduits of innovation process. Innovative behavior may be understood "as a multiple-stage process in which an individual recognizes a problem for which she or he generates novel or adopted ideas and solutions, works to promote and build support for them, and produces an applicable prototype or model for the use and benefit of the organization or parts within it (Carmeli, Meitar & Weisberg, 2006: 78). Creativity is a critical element of our capability to innovate. And innovation is a crucial factor to improve quality of work life, to enhance the level of our competitiveness and to ensure the sustainability of our development. "Creativity is the first step in the process of innovation starting with generation of novelty (invention) and moving on to 'exploitation' of it what we call 'insertion' into a functioning system" (Cropley, 2009: 260). Creativity is the process of producing or developing novel ideas whilst innovative behavior is about putting them into action. The base of innovation is new and applicable ideas, but it is innovative behavior of the employees through which such ideas are adopted, and implemented for achieving some business or social purposes. Organizations must stabilize their innovation process by creating and nurturing an environment in which creativity of the employees is flourished and it is reflected in their actions. Previous researchers have studied organizational variables, such as perceived organizational support, influence and leadership factors, and contextual /cultural variables. However, some empirical studies have revealed that psychological capital or competencies or self-efficacy of the employees generally decide the end results of incremental innovation.

Psychological Capital & Employee Innovative Behavior

Psychological Capital is one's optimistic and development oriented psychological mind state indicated by: "(i) having confidence (self-efficacy) to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks; (ii) making a positive attribution (optimism) about succeeding now and in the future; (iii) persevering towards goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals (hope) in order to succeed; and (iv) when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond (resilience) to attain success" (Luthans, Youssef & Avolio, 2007: 3). In recent research studies (e.g., Abbas & Raja, 2011; Jafri, 2012), psychological capital and innovative behavior were found positively correlated. "Self-efficacy refers to beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce desired results" (Bandura, 1997:3). Bandura (1997:239) suggests that "self-efficacy as a generative capability is essential for creative productivity.... innovativeness requires an unshakable sense of efficacy ..." Extant research (e.g., Jafri, 2012; Kumar & Uzkurt, 2010; Waenink, 2012) indicates that employees with high self-efficacy are creative and tend to demonstrate creative behavior. It has been suggested in the general framework of West & Farr (1989) that individual characteristics, intrinsic job factors, group factors, relationships at work, and organizational factors all have an impact on individual innovation or employee innovative behavior. Such a framework has been upheld in a study carried out by Axtell et al. (2000:.280). An emerging line of thinking suggests that employees may inspire and lead themselves towards achieving their predetermined goals through self-leadership. 'Self-leadership' encompasses a set of skills that include self-consciousness, self-goal determination, self-motivation, self- morale building, self-direction, self-control, self-feedback (e.g., positive or negative self-criticism), self-reflection on work experience and task accomplishments, self-counseling, and developing constructive thought patterns and auto-suggestion system for self-influence and self-development. In the study of Prussia, Anderson, & Manz (1998:523), "self-efficacy perceptions were found to fully mediate the self-leadership / performance relationship". The findings of the study carried out by Carmeli, Meitar & Weisberg (2006:85) "lend support to the role of self-leadership skills in fostering innovative behavior at work".

In nutshell, (i) psychological capital and innovative behavior are positively correlated; (ii) there exists a positive linkage between self-efficacy and innovative behavior of the employees; (iii) cognitive ability positively contributes to innovative behavior of the employees (iv) self-leadership skills foster innovative behavior at work; and (iv) expected positive results on one's performance have significant impact on employee innovative behavior.

Psychological Empowerment

Psychological empowerment is an internal mind state characterized by the feeling of self-confidence or enhanced job motivation at intrinsic level. The perceived organizational or management support available to empower employees certainly affects their willingness and capability to innovate and the sufficient resources provided in time to them further facilitate ideas to emerge. Psychologically empowered employees perceive themselves as capable to change their surroundings in meaningful ways, fostering pro-active behavior, taking personal initiative, and demonstrating their independent action. Earlier research indicates that self-perception of empowerment, (i.e. meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact) is significant for innovative behavior of the employees. Extant research (e.g., Kelly & Lee, 2010; Lari, Shekari & Safizadeh, 2012; Bhatnagar, 2012) revealed that there exists a positive correlation between psychological empowerment and employee innovation behaviors. The results of a recent study carried out by Fernandez & Moldogaziev (2012:177) also shows that "as a multifaceted managerial approach, empowerment increases encouragement to innovate". Thus, employee empowerment and innovative behavior of the employees are inextricably linked.

Transformational Leadership & Leader-Member Exchange

A transformational leader promotes exploring novel ways of getting things done, to test fresh products, processes and services, or in other words, to abandon old ways of doing things and provide way-outs for newer ones. Transformational leadership means "broadening and elevating followers' goals and providing them with confidence to perform beyond the expectations specified in the implicit or explicit exchange agreement" (Dvir, Eden, Avolio & Shamir, 2002:735). "Bass & Avolio (1994) characterized transformational leadership as being composed of four unique but interrelated behavioral components, viz., inspirational motivation (articulating an appealing / evocative vision), intellectual stimulation (promoting creativity and innovation), idealized influence (charismatic role modeling), and individualized consideration (coaching and mentoring)" (quoted in Jung, Chow & Wu, 2003:528).

In prior research, leadership particularly transformational leadership (e.g., Gong, Huang & Farh, 2009; Oke, Munshi & Walumbwa, 2009; Pieterse, van Knippenberg, Schippers & Stam, 2010) has been identified as an important currency in innovative behavior. Extant research (e.g., Reuvers, van Engen, Vinkenburg & Wilson-Evered, 2008; Khan, Aslam & Riaz, 2012; Pieterse et al., 2010) revealed a positive and significant relationship between transformational leadership and...

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