Innovation as everyday action: A case study of organizational discourse and the local meaning of innovation

Jennifer C Batra, Purdue University


This study describes and explicates the nuanced nature of commonly adopted buzzwords such as innovation by analyzing how innovation is defined and embedded structurally within a single organization. Working to uncover how the individual construction of a local definition of innovation within the global context of a quasi-academic organization changes as organizational priorities and practices evolve over time, I present the varied framings of innovation at the micro, meso, and macro levels, through two research phases (a) the definition phase and (b) the practice phase over the course of one year. This thesis project is situated within a single Mid-Western quasi-academic organization specializing in informatics and health care research, and implementing targeted innovation strategies at the time of this study. Through the use of a mutli-methodological approach I layered the elements of d/D discourse inherent in interview data within the organizational context to present a glimpse into socially constructed view of commonly used buzzword innovation. By analyzing the interviews of 25 individuals at all organizational levels, with prior social network analyses and modified Delphi Method results, I found that employees shift their framing of innovation to align individual meanings with organizational perceived meaning (funded action and executive activities), individuals almost unanimously agreed that the organization by its nature of existence was innovative, but often struggled to name an innovation produced in the last year. Second, investigator-level innovation and staff-level innovation varied in its examples with investigators naming products and people. In addition, there are several possible rationales for why the definition of innovation changes over time but the reliance upon federal funding bodies may strongly shape perceptions at all levels. This study contributes to understanding how the changing nature of individual, organizational, and societal language and institutional structures affect and, in turn, are affected by employees’ lived experiences and organizing processes, practices, and texts. Specifically, this study provides a case study of such changes by developing understandings about how innovation is framed or defined by the individuals within the organization and how this definition changes in practice as it is applied within the organizational context. Additionally, this study contributes to the innovation discourse and materialities in addition to its pragmatic contribution to organizations that seek to engage in the innovation market to obtain competitive advantage.




Buzzanell, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Communication|Organizational behavior

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