Innovate or Die? Interpretations of the Imperative to Innovate in the Frontline of the Public Sector

Ditte Thøgersen, Susanne Boch Waldorff

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This study contributes to the literature on public innovation by investigating how the imperative to innovate is interpreted and enacted on the frontlines. By constructing a case based on interviews with 20 first-line managers in the childcare sector, this study examines how these frontline managers interpret the innovation imperative and how they enact it by efforts to engage employees in the translation of innovation into practice. Three methods to engage staff in translating innovation into practice are identified: interpretation and adaptation of new ideas; experimentation in practice; and collegial reflection processes. The study draws on translation theory to understand how frontline organizations utilize innovation activities during everyday operations in order to integrate new ideas into existing practices. This is important for advancing our knowledge about the implications of the normative framing of innovation in public service organizations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Innovation in the Public Sector
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2022


  • Everyday innovation
  • Public service innovation
  • Innovation imperative
  • Translation theory
  • Scandinavian institutionalism

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