“Change is the only constant in life’’: Philips case study on the relationships between innovative personality features, the work contextual factors and showing innovative work behaviour of employees in their work units.

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional


AbstractPurpose- The purpose of this research is to develop more knowledge about the relationships between work contextual factors, innovative personality features and innovative work behaviour (IWB) of employees. Most previous studies had a strong orientation on managerial methods for stimulating innovation. In our study the central research objective are employees who are showing IWB, driven by their own creative and psychologically empowered nature.
Design, methodology, approach- After a literature review, a conceptual model 1.0 was developed, and the stages of IWB (problem recognition, idea generation, idea promotion, idea realisation), the personality features of employees with IWB (creativity and psychological empowerment) and three possibly influential work contextual factors (leadership, room for autonomy, innovative external contacts) were defined. In October 2018 an explorative qualitative case study was started at the R&D departments of Philips in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. We chose this research environment for the case study because we expected to find many employees there with IWB. Philips is a well-known, innovative organization with the highest research and development budget of all Dutch companies (in 2016). Research step one involved interviewing seven department heads, which made it possible to establish the work contextual factors: leadership and room for autonomy, and determine four departments with the right environmental features for the case study. In research step two, in-depth interviews were held with 27 employees in four departments. The interviews with managers and employees were fully transcribed and coded using the Atlas TI software. After the analysis we could formulate a new conceptual model 2.0, using the empirically based data, with propositions as the basis for a second case study in another organization (to be determined). As triangulation, two extra interviews were held with some managers to discuss the findings. They could recognize the outcome and found the report useful in the organizational change process which was taking place at the moment of reporting. The data about the room for autonomy were collected in interviews but also by using a validated questionnaire. After two extra in-depth interviews with employees who showed all four stages of IWB, it was possible, when combined with the use of the other data, to formulate a persona of an employee with IWB in a technical/medical research environment. As an extra check, the method of inter-coding reliability was applied. 
Findings- The outcome of the case study was that a large majority of the interviewees in R&D departments showed one or more stages of IWB, and some of them showed all four stages. There was a relationship between which stages were shown and the function of the departments in which the employees worked. All of the theoretically formulated work contextual factors influenced IWB, especially room for autonomy.The creative features: meaningfulness, expertise, creative thinking skills, and the psychologically empowering features: self-efficacy, meaningfulness and impact, were noted as important influencing factors for IWB. We also found that an optimistic nature is necessary for showing IWB.The work contextual factor leadership was conceptualized into two forms before starting the research: transformational and transactional leadership. We could only find transformational leaders but concluded that there was a transactional influence of the degree of formalization in the organization. Within the transformational leadership, we analysed that the employee with IWB did not need the manager’s support for the expertise aspect of their work but did for aspects like positive stimulation, helping to get funding for research, assistance with the idea promotion of the innovation in the organization, and allowing room for autonomy. Some leaders allowed even more room for autonomy than was officially regulated in the organization. In the newly developed conceptual model, we called this new founded topic: supporting leadership. Having external, innovative contacts, especially when co-creating with customers or other stakeholders, had a stimulating influence on IWB and created a feedback loop between the developing and implementation phases of IWB. We observed that there was a lot of difference in the innovation energy the employees showed during the interviews. This will be a new research aspect in the next case study.
Research limitations- The PhD research provides empirical data based on Dutch R&D situations. Further research into more sectors and countries is needed to increase the external validity of the findings. The present research was done in highly innovative circumstances at R&D departments and therefore had an emphasis on product innovation. More research is necessary in more incremental, innovative situations to explore whether the findings and conclusions also have an external validity in process innovation.
Value- It is well known that organizations, teams and employees strive for stability and don’t like change. But there is a need for innovation in a world with fast, global and sometimes disruptive transitions and a growing awareness that sustainability is becoming an important business factor for survival and that it is necessary to stop polluting our life environment. The scientific contribution of this case study is the linking of several existing theories of IWB, innovative personality features and work contextual factors into one holistic conceptual model and supplementing this with the new explorative findings. This knowledge can be helpful to identify, understand, and facilitate employees with IWB.  Innovative work behaviour, innovative work behavior, IWB, work contextual factors, innovation energy, innovative personality features, supporting leadership, case study, qualitative.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages85
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020



  • Innovative work behaviour, innovative work behavior, IWB, work contextual factors, innovation energy, innovative personality features, supporting leadership, case study, qualitative.

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