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Making bottom-up and top-down processes meet in public innovation

Eveliina Saari, Mikko Lehtonen & Marja Toivonen

Service Industries Journal, volume 35, issue 6, 325-344, DOI:10.1080/02642069.2015.1003369


Innovations in an organisation derive from multiple sources. In the public sector, users and the policy sphere provide important but often unconnected impulses for innovation. These impulses are transmitted to the organisation by grassroots employees who interact with users and managers who implement policy requirements. The paper examines the actors and activities that coordinate bottom-up and top-down initiatives and promote their development into innovations. It creates a theoretical framework that combines the views of employee-driven innovation and strategic reflexivity and supplements them with an analysis of coordination in innovation processes. The functioning of this framework is illustrated in the context of children’s day care services. The results highlight the central role of middle managers and provide new knowledge regarding their ‘bridging’ activities in innovation. The adjustment of bottom-up and top-down processes requires the personal involvement of managers, and the creation of communication arenas, networks and mediating tools.

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Leadership with care – Constructing responsibility as ‘shared caring’ in a complex public service organisation

Mervi Hasu & Mikko Lehtonen

Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration, Volume 18, Issue 4, 9-24


The article investigates the pattern of influence enacted by shop-floor service workers and line managers in a public sector organisation which have been affected by New Public Management changes. Applying the concepts of care (caring) and trust, we expand the concept of the relational influence pattern originating from leadership theory. We supplement our analysis with the sensitive methodology of studying activities in shop-floor work, namely experiences of transitions on the micro-level among a group of employees, managers and clients. The results show that the caring observed in the group is shared among the individuals, it supports their collective responsibility, and exhibits trust relationships that have been created through shared experiences. Qualitative evidence illustrates that shared caring can be a pattern of relational, embodied leadership influence, directed to nurture, improve or help the situation of others in the work community. The pattern had evolved naturally through shared and expected, foreseeable experiences. We suggest the notion of leadership with care to describe this type of relational leadership influence.

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