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Organizations are often rewarded for doing the trendy and flashy, as the recent fashionable university efforts related to Massively Open Online Course's demonstrate all too clearly. Innovations demonstrate many things symbolically to external stakeholders: you are on the cutting edge, you are the future, you are worthy of investment, you can respond to competitive pressures, you are attuned to a larger world, and so on. Ultimately, unfortunately, it is often not the work you do, but what your efforts stand for symbolically that is critical to evaluations of work performance. Here we will explore symbolic innovations comprehensively. Studying them provides a more thorough view of innovation processes and the underlying factors that motivate, generate them. Looking at innovations as symbols in some ways is like a focus on dark matter in physics: it explains what is happening on the surface that would be inexplicable if one only focused on the bright side, the overtly acceptable motivations for being innovative (e.g., improved work performance, progress). In many ways they are the missing piece of the puzzle.
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About the Author
J. DAVID JOHNSON (Ph.D., Michigan State University, 1978) is a Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Kentucky. He has also held academic positions at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Arizona State University, the State University of New York at Buffalo, and Michigan State University and was a media research analyst for the U. S. Information Agency. He has been recognized as among the most prolific publishers of refereed journal articles in the history of the communication discipline. He has written eight books.