4962 technological innovation

(bureaucratic and highly formalized) organiza
tion forms tend to be innovation resistant. The
literature on the management of technological
innovation has examined various structural
aspects and the conditions under which they
affect the ability of individuals and organizations
to innovate. Examples of those are: centraliza
tion, formalization, horizontal and vertical inte
gration, and stage of industry development. The
research informed by this tradition mostly relied
on large surveys and statistical methodology to
infer the effect of different structural arrange
ments on performance. Ultimately, it produced
valuable insights and, much to the dissatisfac
tion of the managers of technology, one broad
design rule: it all depends.
By the late 1970s, the structural contingency
school was heavily criticized for focusing exclu
sively on the investigation of the formal struc
tural attributes at the expense of neglecting the
contribution of informal structures. This void
has been filled by another structuralist approach
the social networks perspective. The origin of
the social networks perspective can be traced to
Simmels (1950) work on dyads and triads, but
it was Granovetters (1985) seminal article that
carved a prominent place in social research for
the individuals and the social relations that they
establish and maintain. Unlike the traditional
structuralist approach which looks at perfor
mance as a function of the relationship between
positions and people as prescribed by an organi
zation chart, the social networks perspective
seeks to capture the actual patterns of linkages
and relations. It is based on the premise that the
actors behaviors and outcomes can be under
stood through the informal structural config
urations (friendship, advice, and collegial
networks) that they are a part of, and the posi
tions they occupy within them (high or low
respect, status and informal power). At the cen
ter of the social network analysis is an examina
tion of the form and content of the stable
patterns people develop in their relationships,
as well as the effects these create.
The impact of social networks, their struc
tural properties, and the social capital they cre
ate on outcomes has been investigated at
multiple levels of analysis. This literature is
replete with empirical evidence of the advan
tages that the informal structures offer over
the formally prescribed rules and behaviors to
technological success (van de Ven 1986; Powell
& Brantley 1992; Ibarra 1993). Informal struc
tures have been shown to foster innovation
through the creation of opportunities for learn
ing, expanding on ones communication net
work and easing access to knowledge and
information (Allen 1977; Tushman 1977).
Yet another influential stream of research on
innovation, a qualitative one, came from the
social constructivist perspective. In the 1980s
it has been applied to scrutinize the production
of scientific knowledge, technology, and tech
nological innovation. The latter, according to
this view, is not to be understood as a result of
following the natural progression of technolo
gical development. Rather, it is seen as emer
ging from the constant interaction between
technology and social processes. It is this inter
action that explains how some innovations
come to fruition and others do not, and why
the same technologically sound projects could
be funded under one type of social arrangement
and abandoned under a different social cast.
This literature gave us the insight that the same
technologies could have different meanings to
different people; thus, it addressed the question
of how decisions on technology are reached and
what role those who have interest in them play
(Bijker et al. 1994).
Despite the impressive amount of empirical
studies, the research on technological innovation
is marked by inconsistent findings. Years of
investigation and valuable contributions have
not converged into a dominant theoretical per
spective which incorporates the multiple
streams of innovation research. This could be,
at least, partially explained by the fact that inno
vation has been studied by researchers who
represent a multitude of academic disciplines;
their efforts and findings, though, are yet to be
integrated. A systematic investigation designed
to shed light on the phenomenon from more
than a single theoretical perspective simulta
neously is also lacking. Furthermore, there is a
need for more studies which approach the
understanding of innovation from a multilevel
standpoint. The future research on technologi
cal innovation will need to address these issues.

SEE ALSO: Industrial Revolution; Science,
Social Construction of; Scientific Know
ledge, Sociology of; Social Network Analysis;