Social Innovation 4.0

Towards flexible work forms, inspirational leadership and inclusive governance models

Innovation is seen as the driving force of competitive advantage, progress and prosperity. This applies to both the individual business and the economy as a whole. A large part of the scientific research focuses on how to stimulate technological innovation. New technological knowledge gained from the Research & Development investments, however, only explains to a limited extent the innovation performance of organisations.

Innovative ways of managing, organising, working and collaboration are important explanatory variables for the successful use of new technological knowledge. Innovative organisation (flexible organisational forms), the development of new management skills (dynamic managerial capabilities), achieving qualitative work relations (working smarter), co-creation and management of institutional stakeholders are concepts also known as social innovation. Data of the Erasmus Competition and Innovation Monitor has shown that social innovation, relatively speaking, contributes for about 75% to the innovation performance of organisations, and technological innovation around 25%. Despite the fact that more and more management scientists underline the importance of social innovation, many questions about this relatively under-exposed type of innovation remain largely unanswered.

Social innovation has impact on the degree of happiness at work

The aim of this study is to present and illustrate new insights into how the carriers of social innovation – like flexible organisational forms, dynamic managerial capabilitiest, working smarter, co-creation with partners and the management of institutional stakeholders – contribute to the organisation’s ability to compete and innovate and to the work experience of employees. New insights will be created about the effects of the carriers of social innovation on multiple performance indicators. Examples are the success of innovation, business performance and employment opportunities, but also the more ‘soft’ performance indicators such as the degree of happiness at work and the extent to which an organisation has an eye for society (‘Corporate Social Responsibility’).

The Erasmus Competition and Innovation Monitor

The Erasmus Competition and Innovation Monitor is developed by Inscope


Flexible organisational forms

Flexible organisational forms involve managing internal changes, optimising self-organisation and synchronising high levels of exploration and exploitation. What are new, flexible working methods that lead to higher productivity and innovation capacity as well as satisfaction among employees?

Dynamica managemerial capabilities

Dynamic managerial capabilities refer to the ability of the management to adapt (the variety and speed of management skills) and the degree of inspirational leadership. For example, how does inspirational leadership influence the innovation capacity of an organisation?

Working smarter

Working smarter means achieving high quality working relationships in order to better utilise knowledge, talent and skills. How can employees’ talents be used to render ideas?


Co-creation relates to how synergies between knowledge of different actors can contribute to the competitiveness of an organisation. How does working together with external parties contribute to the competitiveness of an organisation and which requirements does that impose on employees?

Inclusive governance models

What is the role of institutional stakeholders and the applied management model within companies on their ability to innovate? Do companies have a management model focused on shareholders and short term achievements (Anglo-Saxon model) or do they focus on a larger group of stakeholders and long term achievements (Rhineland model)?

To address the above questions, a large-scale survey will be conducted among Dutch companies (Erasmus Competition and Innovation Monitor). On the basis of the survey data, new insights in the field of the carriers of social innovation, their effects and their interrelationships will be identified. Also, various experiments will be performed within companies in which will be studied how social innovation contributes to more optimal use of knowledge, experience and abilities of employees. For this purpose, interventions within organisations will be done in the field of self-management, leadership, training and education, participation and co-creation with partners. The results of this research will be described in a book on social innovation (Innovation 4.0). The book and the findings will be presented during a conference titled ‘Social innovation in perspective: Towards flexible teaching methods, new leadership and inclusive governance models’.

Altogether, the project Innovation 4.0 offers new insights into how knowledge of employees and the way in which their work is managed and organised, helps to utilize the potential of employees. With this research goal, this project meets the principles of the Goldschmeding Foundation. On behalf of INSCOPE – Research for Innovation, Prof.dr. Henk W. Volberda and Kevin Heij are key members of the project team of Innovation 4.0.


Prof. dr. Henk W. Volberda Professor of Strategic Management & Business Policy, Erasmus University Rotterdam