Author(s), Title and Publication
Lee, Y., Mazzei, A., & Kim, J. N. (2018). Looking for motivational routes for employee-generated innovation: Employees’ scouting behavior. Journal of Business Research, 91, 286-294.

It has been largely believed that organizational innovation comes from the outside in, primarily from investments in technology or research and development (R&D) functions. More recently communication researchers in particular have begun to consider the idea that innovation may originate from strategic internal processes. From this perspective, employees’ voluntary efforts to seek and share organizational information, a communication behavior referred to as scouting, may serve both functional and innovative roles. Empirically tied to organizational productivity and effectiveness, employee knowledge generated from work experiences may play more comprehensive organizational roles, such as offering insight to reduce risks, prevent crises, and enhance reputation through employees promoting and advocating for the organization, eventually yielding innovation. Yet, despite this potential, factors that motivate employees’ information seeking and sharing remain relatively unexplored.

A web-based survey of 306 current employees working at a semi-conductor company in Italy explored the antecedents of the employees’ communication behavior of scouting. Specifically, organizational or managerial level factors of empowering leadership and organization-employee relationship, and employee individual level factors of intrinsic motivation of creativity and creative process engagement, were examined in relation to employee scouting behavior. Findings suggest quality employee-organization relationships lead employees to generate and circulate valuable organizational information, that produces innovation. Empowering leadership, where managers encourage, emphasize, and reinforce creativity was found to encourage such relationships, however empowering leadership alone did not significantly influence employees’ information seeking and sharing behavior. Employees’ overall engagement and motivation in the creative process, such as tending to consider problems from multiple perspectives, and a relative enjoyment in that process additionally proved significant in developing quality relationships, and in compelling employees to collect and forward organizational intelligence. Ultimately, findings indicate that a relationship-building approach is critical to influencing employees’ active information behavior and suggest the role of the leader is additionally important in motivating and empowering employees to share information.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) facilitate formal and informal opportunities for employees to share important information, such as scheduling one-on-one meetings and reserving time for employees to “drop in” which may aid in building favorable organizational relationships, (2) engage employees in their job and the organization by publicly and personally recognizing the strategic value of employee information, and (3) train managers on empowering leadership behaviors, such as recognizing, and facilitating creative problem solving to demonstrate and encourage the strategic value of employees’ shared information.

Location of Article
This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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