Collective Innovation, Organizations, and Fields:
Towards the Organized Transformation of Today’s Innovation Societies
Likewise, innovation studies do not only describe the society-wide expansion of innovation. They also highlight that heterogeneous actors produce innovation collectively in networks and fields today (e.g., Saxenian 1994; Ferrary/Granovetter 2009; Sydow et al. 2012). In so doing, such studies point to forces of homogeneity (DiMaggio/Powell 1983) and heterogeneity as well as to struggles within these fields (Hoffman 1999). Although many aspects of collective innovation have been well studied, central theoretical questions remain. What qualifies as a field of innovation? What does the collective production of innovation in and between organizations mean? How do organizations shape fields, and how are they shaped by them within practical processes of producing innovation?
We outline a practice–theoretical perspective informed by Giddens to understand the active, recursive, reflexive, and collective transformation of societies and organizations in and through processes of innovation. We highlight the entwinement of organization, field, and society and of domination, legitimation, and signification in constituting collective agency in contexts of radicalized modernity. We develop and illustrate our framework by studying two completely different fields of innovation: the globally oriented semiconductor industry (Sydow et al. 2012) and a regional cluster in catalysis research (Schmidt 2013). We examine organizations as reflexive social systems, the role of organizations in processes of collective innovation, and the challenges they face. In this way, we contribute to a repositioning of organizations in today’s radicalized modern innovation societies.