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Organizational learning in an innovation network: Enhancing the agency of public service organizations

Katri Kallio (Organizations, Networks and Innovation Systems, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo, Finland)
Inka Lappalainen (Organizations, Networks and Innovation Systems, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo, Finland)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 9 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how collaborative service development in a public-private citizen innovation network can be approached as an organizational learning process. Although the importance of learning in networks has been highlighted in earlier studies, the actual processes and outcomes have remained less studied, especially in the public service context.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach taken is based on the theory of expansive learning. The empirical data were gathered in a qualitative case study that focused on a public service organization developing new activities for unemployed youth. The network around this focal organization consisted of citizens as end-users, private employers and a facilitating consultancy company.

Findings

The findings illustrate how and what was learned in the complex network setting and how this learning created potential for collaborative service development in the future. Importantly, the public service organization started to perceive itself as an active agent enhancing collaboration.

Research limitations/implications

The study revealed important interfaces between service development, organizational learning, and innovation activities in networks. This observation is in line with the service-dominant logic, particularly with its focus on actor-to-actor relationships in value co-creation.

Practical implications

The importance of facilitation – particularly for the emergence of the agency of the focal organization – should be taken into account in the development of networked service innovations.

Originality/value

This study illustrates how expansive learning theory may contribute on deepening understanding of the practical collaboration processes, as well as conceptual aims and outcomes of networked service innovations.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the colleagues at VTT and University of Lapland, as well as the case organizations and citizens involved in the study, in their fruitful co-operation. The authors are also grateful to Research Professor Marja Toivonen from VTT from her suggestions and the authors appreciate the Managing Service Quality’s reviewers’ thoughtful comments that have improved the paper. The research has been funded by TEKES (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) and VTT.

Citation

Kallio, K. and Lappalainen, I. (2015), "Organizational learning in an innovation network: Enhancing the agency of public service organizations", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 140-161. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSTP-09-2013-0198

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited