Enabling Innovation in Complex Welfare Service Systems
Harri Jalonen, Pekka Juntunen
DOI: 10.4236/jssm.2011.44046   PDF    HTML     5,109 Downloads   9,854 Views   Citations


This paper explores the potential for innovation in welfare services. Using the complexity lens, the paper presents a theoretically founded basis for enabling innovation in complex public-private welfare service systems. The empirical data was collected by conducting semi-structured interviews with leading office holders responsible for social services in the City of Helsinki (Finland) and executive managers of social services producer organizations. As a result, this paper presents and discusses pro-innovation conditions for innovations in welfare services. Pro-innovation conditions consist of four dimensions: 1) creating trust, 2) increasing communication responsiveness, 3) utilising connectivity and interdependencies, and 4) pursuing diversity. This paper claims that the interaction processes have an unknown potetial that can be translated into a resource for improving innovation performance in welfare services. The paper also presents research and managerial implications. It is argued that complexity thinking opens up potential for the movement of thought in innovation research. One avenue for future research could be to get more deeply understanding why some organizations are able to be more responsive to evolving innovations than others. In order to answer this question, we suggest elaborating the consequences the conventional management and administrative activities may have on innovation in complex welfare service systems. The paper reflects empirical findings on the literature of innovation and complexity, and thereby might open new insights for practitioners to interpret their own innovation environment. One of the most important issue linked to innovation management is the acceptance of the paradox of “being in charge but not in control”. Instead of equaling management with the elimination of uncertainty related to innovation processes, management should be seen consisting of activities that have effects on ongoing interaction processes within the complex welfare service system. These effects can be anticipated, but not fully known. We suggest that managing innovation in complex welfare service systems require the ability to articulate emerging themes, to stand “co-opetition” states of diversity, to acknowledge the boundaries of rational thinking and resist the urge to rapidly draw conclusions, and reflect on one’s own behavior and its consequences.

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H. Jalonen and P. Juntunen, "Enabling Innovation in Complex Welfare Service Systems," Journal of Service Science and Management, Vol. 4 No. 4, 2011, pp. 401-418. doi: 10.4236/jssm.2011.44046.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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