Hiding Practices in Employee-user Innovation

Mia Rosa Hartmann, Rasmus Koss Hartmann

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Recent research has demonstrated that employees can develop novel solutions to work-process-related problems that they experience directly, but in order for organizations to benefit from this form of user innovation (“employee-user innovation”), employee-developed innovations need to diffuse within the innovator's organization. This paper challenges the prevalent assumption in studies of employee-user innovation that employee-users readily reveal and diffuse their innovations. Based on a grounded analysis of 117 innovations developed by rank-and-file workers that we identified during 32 months of ethnographic fieldwork in two police units and two military units in Denmark, we show that employee-users frequently invest considerable effort in actively hiding their innovations. We (i) identify four distinct hiding practices that employee-user innovators enact, (ii) demonstrate how decisions about whether and how to hide are based on interpretations of a range of material and organizational conditions, and (iii) show how these decisions negatively impact the employee-user innovation process by impeding not just use and diffusion, but also the development of innovations. Our findings carry implications for user innovation research, as well as for how we understand both covert innovation processes in organization and the relationship between bureaucratic organization and innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104728
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number4
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • User innovation
  • Employee user
  • Hiding practices
  • Ethnography
  • Police
  • Military

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