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Context and innovation in traditional bureaucracies: A Hong Kong study

Scott, I. (2020) Context and innovation in traditional bureaucracies: A Hong Kong study. Public Administration and Development . Early View.

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Traditional bureaucracies, defined in Weberian terms, are almost invariably seen as antithetical to innovation. Yet, although the academic literature presents an array of formidable structural barriers to the emergence and implementation of new ideas, innovation does occur in traditional bureaucracies. How can the structural impediments be overcome? What are the processes that enable innovation to take place? Based on a longitudinal study of the Hong Kong government's innovation policies and practices, it is argued that political context is a critical variable explaining how, even in rigid traditional bureaucracies, barriers may be avoided or temporarily suspended. Two contrasting case studies are used to illustrate, first, the importance of political commitment in gaining acceptance for new ideas and, second, the failure of agencies dedicated to innovation to achieve their objectives. It is postulated that circumventing structural barriers or working through political channels to reduce their impact may be a more constructive strategy than creating dedicated agencies to develop innovative measures. The study is grounded in a literature review, documentary evidence from the Hong Kong government's innovative agencies, and interviews with senior staff from those agencies.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): College of Arts, Business, Law and Social Sciences
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Ltd
Copyright: © 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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