Sub-theme 03: (SWG) Routine Dynamics, Innovation and Creativity

Martha S. Feldman
University of California, USA
Carlo Salvato
Bocconi University, Italy
Dionysios D. Dionysiou
ALBA Graduate Business School at the American College of Greece, Greece

Call for Papers

What role do routines play in innovation and creativity? And what role does creativity or innovation play in developing and enacting routines? The increasingly uncertain and fast-changing environments in which today's organizations operate call for significant levels of innovation and creativity. While routines have traditionally been seen as antithetical to creativity, recent theorizing about routines has drawn into question the duality of stability and change by shifting from a fixed characterization of routines as monolithic objects to a processual focus on routine dynamics.


A practice theory-based reconceptualization has broadened our ways of understanding routines to include action, agency and performativity as mutually constituted with situation, structure and materiality (Feldman & Pentland, 2003; Feldman & Orlikowski, 2011; Parmigiani & Howard-Grenville, 2011). With more attention to action as constitutive (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002; Farjoun, 2008; Pentland et al., 2012; Weick, 1979), the door to understanding the creativity of action opens and our understandings of the concepts based on action, including routines, expands (Joas, 1996). The ever-present possibility of novelty, interruption, and adaptation in performance promotes a view of routines as inherently open-ended and emergent collective phenomena (Dionysiou & Tsoukas, 2013; Jarzabkowski et al., 2011; Rerup & Feldman, 2011). These qualities form the basis for exploring the relationship between routines and creativity.


Studies of design firms have already shown that routines play an important role in producing creativity (Grand, 2012; Hargadon & Sutton, 1997; Hales & Tidd, 2009; Salvato, 2009). Further, research has shown that some organizations systematically incorporate play into performances of routines to foster novel behaviors and outcomes (Mainemelis & Ranson, 2006), while others require creativity and innovative solutions to maintain consistent performance in the face of unanticipated problems or novel inputs (e.g., Orr, 1996; Weick et al., 1999).


To expand knowledge of routines and routine dynamics, this sub-theme directs attention to how organizational routines both embody and generate innovation and creativity. We invite papers from a range of theoretical and methodological approaches that address how routines support and generate innovation and creativity and how innovation and creativity affect the emergence and adaptation of routines.

Questions of interest include but are not restricted to the following:

  • Emergence and adaptation. How do new and creative ways of doing things emerge, and adapt over time? What dynamics support the emergence of innovation and creativity in routines?
  • Creative routines and organizations. When is creativity likely to be important to the design, performance, understanding, or outcomes of a routine? How are routines likely to differ on the basis of different requirements for creativity?
  • Interdependence. How does interdependence of actions and actors in routines generate creativity and innovation? How does conflict or other forms of friction encourage new solutions and perhaps new problems?
  • Multiplicity and ecologies of routines. Exploring relationships among connected routines may be a fruitful avenue to understand how creative routines emerge, and how existing routines affect the ability to innovate.
  • Artifacts. How do different configurations – or sociomaterial entanglements – of actors and artifacts shape a routine's innovative nature or its ability to determine innovative outcomes?


Featured speaker: Luciana D'Adderio will explore the key roles artifacts play as intermediaries and mediators in the innovation process and how sociomaterial ensembles of human and material agencies including actors and artifacts might encourage the emergence and persistence of routines that support the processes of innovation and knowledge creation.




  • Dionysiou, D.D., & Tsoukas, H. (2013): "Understanding the (re)creation of routines from within: A symbolic interactionist perspective." Academy of Management Review, 38 (2), 181–205.
  • Farjoun, M. (2008): "Strategy making, novelty and analogical reasoning." Strategic Management Journal, 29 (9), 1001–1016.
  • Feldman, M.S., & Pentland, B.T. (2003): "Reconceptualizing organizational routines as a source of flexibility and change." Administrative Science Quarterly, 48 (1), 94–118.
  • Feldman, M.S., & Orlikowski, W.J. (2011): "Theorizing practice and practicing theory." Organization Science, 22 (5), 1240–1253.
  • Hales, M., & Tidd, J. (2009): "The practice of routines and representations in design and development." Industrial and Corporate Change, 18 (4), 551–574.
  •  Hargadon, A., & Sutton, R.I. (1997): "Technology brokering and innovation in a product development firm." Administrative Science Quarterly, 42 (4), 716–749.
  •  Jarzabkowski, P., Lê, J., & Feldman, M.S. (2011): "Toward a theory of coordinating. Creating coordinating mechanisms in practice." Organization Science, 23 (4), 907–927.
  •  Joas, H. (1996): The Creativity of Action. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  •  Mainemelis, C., & Ranson, S. (2006): "Ideas are born in fields of play: towards a theory of play and creativity in organizational settings." Research in Organizational Behavior, 27, 81–131.
  •  Orr, J.E. (1996): Talking about Machines. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press/Cornell University Press.
  •  Parmigiani, A., & Howard-Grenville, J. (2011): "Routines revisited: Exploring the capabilities and practice perspectives." The Academy of Management Annals, 5 (1), 413–453.
  •  Pentland, B.T., Feldman, M.S., Becker, M.C., & Liu, P. (2012): "Dynamics of organizational routines: A generative model." Journal of Management Studies, 49 (8), 1484–1508.
  •  Rerup, C., & Feldman, M.S. (2011): "Routines as a source of change in organizational schemata: The role of trial-and-error learning." Academy of Management Journal, 54 (3), 577–610.
  •  Salvato, C. (2009): "Capabilities unveiled. The role of ordinary activities in the evolution of product development processes." Organization Science, 20 (2), 384–409.
  •  Tsoukas, H., & Chia, R. (2002): "On organizational becoming: Rethinking organizational change." Organization Science, 13 (5), 567–582.
  •  Weick, K.E. (1979): The Social Psychology of Organizing (2nd ed.). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  •  Weick, K.E., Sutcliffe, K.M., & Obstfeld, D. (1999): "Organizing for high reliability: Processes of collective mindfulness." Research in Organizational Behavior, 21, 81–123.


Martha S. Feldman is the Johnson Chair for Civic Governance and Public Management at the University of California, Irvine, USA. Her current research on organizational routines explores the role of performance and agency in creating, maintaining and altering these fundamental organizational phenomena.
Carlo Salvato is Associate Professor of Business Strategy at Bocconi University, Milan, Italy. His research focuses on micro-level and endogenous aspects of routines and capabilities development and change, internal entrepreneurship and corporate level strategy.
Dionysios D. Dionysiou is Associate Professor of Organization and Management at ALBA Graduate Business School at the American College of Greece, Athens. His research focuses on processes of organizing and sensemaking, organizational change, and organizational routines.