Final Seminar on Policy and Expertise: Flyvbjerg, Lavén and Whyte on Innovation

by Lisa Stampnitzky

The last GAIn seminar this term brings together three scholars researching different facets of this most pervasive and all-encompassing of concepts, ‘Innovation’. In addition to discussing concrete case studies of innovation in practice, the seminar will serve as a forum to discuss different methodological approaches to the study of innovation practices and innovative actors. The discussant will be Javier Lezaun, James Martin Lecturer in Science and Technology Governance at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society.

Date: Tuesday, 08 March 2011
Time: 16:30-19:00
Location: Andrew Cormack seminar room, Saïd Business School

Real social science: applied phronesis
Bent Flyvbjerg (Saïd Business School, University of Oxford)

Bent Flyvbjerg’s research covers cost overruns and benefit shortfalls in major programmes, theories of success and failure, complexity and innovation, optimism bias and strategic misrepresentation, cost and demand forecasting in high-risk environments, risk assessment and management, and governance of major programmes. He is author and co-author of key references in the field of major programme management, including the books Megaprojects and Risk and Decision-Making on Mega-Projects.

Flyvbjerg furthermore does research on the philosophy of social science, where he has pioneered a research methodology called “phronetic social science,” described in his books Making Social Science Matter and Rationality and Power. His books and articles have been translated into 18 languages and his research covered by Science, The Economist, the Financial Times, The New York Times, the BBC, and many other media.

When policies meet practice: on the role of scripts in organizing innovation
Fredrik Lavén (School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg)

Since it is often argued that innovation is the driver of economic growth and societal prosperity, governments and policy makers often promote policies designed to stimulate innovation. Policies that build upon popular theories of innovation systems, clusters and triple helix interaction reflect the conviction that innovation occurs in networks of interacting companies, research institutions and public organizations. What happens when such policies meet practice? Using examples from studies of policy-making and two innovation initiatives in the Swedishtelecom and biomedical industries, Fredrik Lavén will explore how innovation theories are inscribed into policy and how these policies are translated into efforts of organizing innovation. Using the metaphor of scripts, he will show how the policies paradoxically prescribe the establishment of organizational structures rather than innovation activities. It is only when the scripts are edited, adjusted to local settings, interests and past experiences, that innovation work is made possible. The policy challenge is thus to facilitate local innovation practices rather than imposing or “policing” structure.

Fredrik Lavén is a visiting research fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. His home institution is the University of Gothenburg and the School of Business, Economics and Law, where he is a researcher and lecturer within organization studies. In Gothenburg, Fredrik is affiliated to the Department of Business Administration, The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Gothenburg Research Institute, where he is a member of the research programme Organizing in action-nets. Fredrik’s research interests concern organising, innovation, strategy and particularly the relationship between plans and action. Along with his research, he also works with undergraduate, graduate and executive education, both as a teacher, course director, and programme manager. Fredrik is also an associated consultant to the strategy consultancy NormannPartners.

Innovation and institutions: Episodes of inquiry
Jennifer Whyte (Design Innovation Research Centre, University of Reading)

Institutions constrain cognition, so how does innovation occur in highly institutionalised contexts? This working paper draws on a study that traces the episodes of inquiry through which glass becomes used as a structural material in building. Glass is a material that has been used for thousands of years and is known to be brittle—shattering when it breaks. Over the past three decades it has become radically re-imagined as a load-bearing material capable of enabling a range of distinct and innovative uses within buildings. This involves substantially more than taking existing glass elements and loading them with the weight of the building. Rather, new relationships have developed between glass, manufacturing methods, adhesives, clients, designers, manufacturers and building inspectors. The empirical study is used to develop new theory about expert work, and inquiry, in institutionalised fields.

Jennifer Whyte is a Reader in Innovation and Design in the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading. Her research is on the organisational practices of innovation and design. She holds an Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Fellowship on Management Practices in Project Based Design Environments, and is Director of the Design Innovation Research Centre, an exploration group that has a vision of a new mode of design in the digital economy.

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