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The innovation paradox: a selective review of the literature on action learning and innovation

Pedler, M. and Brook, C. (2017) The innovation paradox: a selective review of the literature on action learning and innovation. Action Learning: Research and Practice, 14 (3). pp. 216-229. ISSN 1476-7341

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/14767333.2017.1326877


This paper explores selective literatures in the two fields of action learning and innovation, and seeks insights into the processes of, and connections between, innovation, engagement and implementation. We searched the action learning articles for references to innovation, beginning with the work of Revans, who highlights the innovation paradox, which becomes a key theme of this paper. We searched the very large innovation literature for references to innovation as a learning process and as a factor in organisational learning. The paper surveys the factors said to enable innovation, and briefly outlines some inhibitors, before considering Revans’ contribution to thinking about innovation. This is followed by a consideration of developments in action learning and innovation since Revans. The findings suggest that paradox theory is a useful way of thinking about innovation, conceived of as a practical problem involving resistances and frequent failures of implementation and adoption, and also propose action learning as a means of working with and addressing paradox. A limitation of this study is its lack of empirical data. Further research could usefully interrogate examples of innovation practices and ask such questions as to why innovation remains so elusive, and how innovative capacities and capabilities can be developed and enhanced.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Leadership, Organisations and Behaviour
ID Code:70754

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