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Peter R.A. Oeij, Diana Rus, Frank D. Pot (dir.), Workplace Innovation. Theory, Research and Practice. Suisse, Springer, 410 p.

Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay

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1Over the years, there have been many books and publications on the evolution of work, and workplace innovations. Here is a book which stands out as it combines theory, research and practice, and the practical dimension can be interesting for a larger audience. The book, of course, targets researchers and students, who will find here many very interesting articles on various aspects and forms of innovation (Lean, Uberization, Employee-driven, amongst many others), but can also be very inspiring for employers, unions, employee representatives, as well as policy makers.

2Given the diversity of cases studied, of countries and subjects, it is difficult to summarize, but we can say that the book presents a series of contributions which try to support workplace innovation in various forms and also to increase psychosocial well-being in the workplace.

3The book opens with a series of short texts which present the views of employers, employees, a policy maker and a researcher (Karasek). The introduction presents the originality of the book, highlighting the fact that if there have been numerous publications on work organization and socio-technical perspectives over the last decades, there has not been that much attention paid to the link between innovation and various forms of organizing work. The book also refers to research done in the European workplace innovation community, under the EUWIN group.

4The book is divided in chapters which follow the elements mentioned in the subtitle. Part I starts with policy and chapter 2 presents an overview of the European policy on workplace innovation over the last two decades. This is quite useful for those who have followed these policies, without always understanding how they fit together and what advances they brought forward. The authors indicate that while there has been quite a lot of work and research, Europe’s policies are still organized in silos and national policies refer to innovation, productivity, skills, employment, quality of jobs, occupational health and safety, without much integration of these various elements. Chapter 3 presents various national programmes and initiatives, and the authors conclude that Europe still uses soft regulation in this respect, also noting that most activities are based in Northern and Western Europe, the other zones appearing somewhat less present or left behind in these themes. Chapter 4 goes over a specific policy, that is Industry 4.0 as it is seen in Germany. The authors show that this is a very technology driven policy and indicate that in their view work should take a more prominent place in the process of moving towards Industry 4.0, or in the process of digitalization of industry.

5In the second part, theory and evidence are put forward. The chapters from 5 to 8 cover various elements, chapter 5 indicating that workplace innovation is in need of more integration, which this book tries to support. The chapter does not reach the proposed integration but does offer some insights on how this could be done, especially on how to bring together theory and empirical research. Chapter 7 is more centered on well-being at work, which is normally one of the objectives of workplace innovation, although this is often forgotten in concrete organizational change endeavours at the level of firms. Unfortunately it is more often enhanced productivity which is the goal, and this is often at the expense of workers’ well-being. The author defends the idea that organizational collective intervention is a better objective than simple individual coping, which is often the emphasis of firms’ projects. Chapter 8 also deals with well-being at work and relates this objective with the promotion of workplace innovation, again bringing the two dimensions together, and proposing policy-level interventions for better workplace innovation.

6Part III presents the results of various research projects. A first chapter deals with an organizational psychology perspective and proposes the integration of workplace innovation and organizational psychology. The authors defend the idea that job autonomy and flexibility, as well as participation in organizational life can have a positive effect on the quality of work and organizational performance. Chapter 10 presents results from the Eurofound research based on 51 cases in 10 EU countries. The chapter presents why and how companies introduce workplace innovation and also presents elements as to the effects observed. Cooperation between management, employees and employee representatives is shown to be a key element for success. Chapter 11 exposes the results of a study of six Danish organizations, which were also part of the Eurofound research previously mentioned. The chapter puts the accent on institutional entrepreneurship in the context of workplace innovation, and shows the importance of institutional alliances in the success of workplace innovation. Chapter 12 presents other elements from this same Eurofound research, looking into cases in the UK which indicate the importance of enterprise leadership for success. Here we might have thought that collective leadership (communityship in the words of Henry Mintzberg) might have been put forward rather than traditional forms of leadership. Chapter 13 deals with the issue of Lean Management in the context of hospitals. As Lean management has often been applied, but also very much criticized, in the health sector, the authors highlight the fact that in order to be successful, Lean management needs to rely on employee involvement, something which is too often forgotten. Chapter 14 also looks at the importance of employee involvement for the success of workplace innovation initiatives. Chapter 15 addresses the issue that workplace innovation could be challenged by various initiatives such as the platform economy or other forms of ‘new’ business models. Chapter 16 analyzes the 6th European Working Conditions Survey (2015) and puts forward observations concerning job autonomy and organizational participation, as well as the links between these two elements and job quality, engagement and well-being.

7Finally, Part IV of the book presents various tools, design approaches, methods and best practices in order to help employers and employees, as well as unions and employee representatives to move in the direction of better workplaces, including better job quality, engagement and well-being for workers, but also, one can imagine, better performance for employers.

8All in all, the book is very informative from all points of view of theory, research, practice and policy, and it clearly puts forward interesting pathways in order to increase job quality, engagement and well-being in various workplaces. Now that the ‘how to’ is apparently quite well known, and well described in this book, the issue remains to determine how to bring firms and nations to move in this direction.

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Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay, « Peter R.A. Oeij, Diana Rus, Frank D. Pot (dir.), Workplace Innovation. Theory, Research and Practice. Suisse, Springer, 410 p. »Revue Interventions économiques [En ligne], 60 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2018, consulté le 07 février 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay

Professeure titulaire à l’École des sciences administratives, TELUQ – Université du Québec, Titulaire de la Chaire de recherche sur les enjeux socio-organisationnels de l’économie du savoir

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