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An Examination of "Push-Pull" Theory Applied to Process Innovation in Knowledge Work


  • Robert W. Zmud

    (School of Business Administration, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514)


Because many organizations have not been successful in introducing new task and managerial methods into the workplace, considerable attention has been directed toward developing a more complete understanding of organizational innovation. Three separate literatures (organizational science, engineering/R&D management, and MS/OR/MIS implementation) have, in fact, been concerned with innovation and technology diffusion; however, surprisingly little integration among the three has occurred. This paper reports on a study which examined a key tenet from each of these literatures in an effort to construct a robust model of innovative behavior. Specifically, the study utilized survey data in examining the validity of "push-pull" theory (i.e., that innovation is most likely to occur when a need and a means to resolve that need are simultaneously recognized) as well as the importance of top management attitude toward an innovation and of organizational receptivity toward change. The research context involved the diffusion of six modern software practices into 47 software development groups. While the model's independent variables explained a rather large amount of the variance in the use of these modern software practices, "push-pull" theory was not validated. A number of explanations are offered for the apparent failure of "push-pull" theory. Top management attitude and organizational receptivity toward change, however, were generally found to influence organizational innovation. As hypothesized, significant differences emerged in the factors influencing administrative and technical innovations with organizational receptivity toward change important only for the technical innovations. This suggests that organizational processes facilitating innovation should vary depending on the nature of the innovation involved.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert W. Zmud, 1984. "An Examination of "Push-Pull" Theory Applied to Process Innovation in Knowledge Work," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(6), pages 727-738, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:30:y:1984:i:6:p:727-738

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    Cited by:

    1. Orlikowski, Wanda J. (Wanda Janina)., 2003. "Radical and incremental innovations in systems development : an empirical investigation of case tools," Working papers no. 221, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    2. John W. Boudreau, 2004. "50th Anniversary Article: Organizational Behavior, Strategy, Performance, and Design in Management Science," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(11), pages 1463-1476, November.
    3. Byrd, T. A. & Marshall, T. E., 1997. "Relating information technology investment to organizational performance: a causal model analysis," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 43-56, February.
    4. Demir, Robert & Wennberg, Karl & McKelvie, Alexander, 2016. "The Strategic Management of High-Growth Firms: A Review and Theoretical Conceptualization," Ratio Working Papers 273, The Ratio Institute.
    5. Elias Carayannis & Vivienne Wang, 2012. "Competitiveness Model—A Double Diamond," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 3(3), pages 280-293, September.
    6. Premkumar, G. & Roberts, Margaret, 1999. "Adoption of new information technologies in rural small businesses," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 467-484, August.
    7. repec:spr:infosf:v:17:y:2015:i:1:d:10.1007_s10796-014-9503-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Teng, James TC & Fiedler, Kirk D & Grover, Varun, 1998. "An exploratory study of the influence of the IS function and organizational context on business process reengineering project initiatives," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 679-698, December.
    9. David Omondi Achieng & Juliet Akinyi Jagero, 2014. "Management Support in Adoption of Computer Integrated Model in Financial Forecasting," International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences, Human Resource Management Academic Research Society, International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences, vol. 4(2), pages 166-175, April.
    10. repec:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:2:p:440-461 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Kauffman, Robert J. & Liu, Jun & Ma, Dan, 2015. "Innovations in financial IS and technology ecosystems: High-frequency trading in the equity market," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 339-354.
    12. Mellor, Stephen & Hao, Liang & Zhang, David, 2014. "Additive manufacturing: A framework for implementation," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 194-201.
    13. Nilashi, Mehrbakhsh & Ahmadi, Hossein & Ahani, Ali & Ravangard, Ramin & Ibrahim, Othman bin, 2016. "Determining the importance of Hospital Information System adoption factors using Fuzzy Analytic Network Process (ANP)," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 244-264.


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