Collaborative Innovation, New Technologies, and Work Redesign 251
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 78, Iss. 2, pp. 251–260. © 2017 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
Johanna McQuarrie is a research fellow at
the Scottish Centre for Employment Research at the
University of Strathclyde. Her research addresses
employee involvement in innovation, workplace
innovation, and job quality, with a current focus on
innovation in community pharmacy and in the food
and drink sector.
Patricia Findlay is professor of work and
employment relations and director of the Scottish
Centre for Employment Research at the University
of Strathclyde. Her recent interests span workplace
innovation ( http://www.innovatingworks.org.uk ), job
quality, skills, and employer-employee partnerships.
She is coeditor of
Are Bad Jobs Inevitable? Trends,
Determinants and Responses to Job Quality in the
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
Colin Lindsay is a reader in human resource
management and deputy director of the Scottish
Centre for Employment Research at the University
of Strathclyde. His research addresses workplace
innovation and progressive workplace practices,
public service management, and the impact of
employability policies. He publishes widely in
international academic and professional journals on
employment-related issues in public services.
Abstract : Stakeholders agree on the need to promote innovation in work organization in public services. This article
deploys the concept of collaborative innovation to discuss employees ’ and managers ’ experiences of a major technology-
driven work redesign project within National Health Service pharmacy services in Scotland. The authors draw on
extant literature on New Public Management (NPM) and collaborative approaches to innovation to frame more than
40 in-depth interviews with managers and employees. They find that key components of collaborative innovation—
related to joint problem-solving, interdisciplinary working, and mutual learning—were important to the success of
the redesign project and had positive impacts on job quality for some employees. The authors argue that researchers
and policy makers should look beyond NPM-driven models that have dominated some areas of the public innovation
literature to consider the potential added value of collaborative innovation to improving both work and service
delivery in the public sector.
Evidence for Practice
• Collaborative innovation provides a useful alternative to New Public Management–oriented approaches to
promoting innovation in public service workplaces.
• Including employees in collaborative decision-making processes can support creative problem-solving and
• Work redesign that creates opportunities for interdisciplinary boundary spanning and cross-functional
learning can facilitate innovation.
• Care needs to be taken that work redesign programs intended to support innovation do not produce the
unintended consequence of limiting opportunities for learning and career progression.
Emma Dunlop Corcoran
Robert Van Der Meer
University of Strathclyde
Collaborative Innovation, New Technologies,
and Work Redesign
P olicy makers, public sector managers, and
employees accept that there is value in
promoting innovative practices in work
organization and service delivery in public services.
Interest in public sector innovation has intensified
given the urgency of multifaceted, “wicked” policy
problems, an increasingly demanding public,
pressure on services as a result of population
aging, and the need to deliver efficiencies in the
face of budget austerity (de Vries, Bekkers, and
Tummers 2016 ). Indeed, for some advocates, public
innovation is a necessary “intelligent alternative to
blind, devolved across-the-board cuts” that might
otherwise cause lasting damage to public services and
demotivation among employees (Ansell and Torfing
2014 , 2).
These challenges are particularly intense in public
health services. For example, in the United States,
concerns about how best to respond to emerging
pressures on health services have played out in
debates around the sustainability of the Affordable
Care Act and Medicaid. In the nations of the United
Kingdom, where the National Health Service (NHS)
accounts for a substantial share of public spending
and is required to deliver publicly available health
care and medicines, a range of reform strategies
have been adopted in the hope of achieving greater
efficiency and innovation (Lindsay et al. 2014 ).
This article deploys the concept of collaborative
innovation to reflect on employees ’ and managers ’
experiences of a major technology-driven work
redesign project within NHS pharmacy services
in Scotland. Drawing on recent commentaries by
Torfing ( 2013 ) and Hartley, Sørensen, and Torfing
( 2013 ), this article finds evidence of New Public
Management (NPM) influences in the development,
management, and implementation of the redesign
project. However, we suggest that the emergence of
collaborative innovation—and especially employee-
led initiatives—was vital to the realization of the
project ’ s objectives and the mitigation of some related
problems in relation to work organization and job
Marion Bennie is professor of pharmacy,
Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical
Sciences, and chief pharmacist, Public Health
and Intelligence, NHS National Services Scotland.
Her research focuses on real-world clinical data
(pharmacoepidemiology) and designing and testing
novel health care intervention models to support
innovative clinical practice.
Emma Dunlop Corcoran is a research assistant
at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical
Sciences. Utilizing qualitative research methodologies, her
research addresses better use of medicines, innovation
in pharmaceutical care services, and patient-reported
outcome measures for high-cost cancer medicines.
Robert Van Der Meer is a reader in management
science at the University of Strathclyde. His research
addresses the management of new technology
in health care settings, including both effective
technology implementation and workforce impact.
He publishes widely in international academic and
professional journals focusing on operations, product
and services management, and operational research.