Shop assistants as innovators

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Later this week my I will present a paper on shop assistants as innovators. I will do this together with my colleagues Tjip de Jong and Joseph Kessels at the HRD conference in Lille. In this paper we critically examine three assumptions on which activities in traditional change processes are commonly based, and we propose an alternative approach. This new approach has three starting points:

  • We consider the supermarket staff as knowledge workers
  • Knowledge workers have an important role in developing innovations during their work.
  • Instead of imposing an intended change as if it were completely new management should look for 'seeds' or successful examples.

We conducted action research in 17 supermarkets. That means that we worked in the shops, talked with the employees, sat in the canteen. One of the things that we found was that there are three types of supermarkets: one organised as a family; one organised as a student house, and one organised as a firm. Each of these types has different qualities. From the research it revealed that it is necessary to allow for diversity; that ownership and entrepreneurship contribute more to change than discipline and obedience; and that the specific role and capability of the manager seems to be crucial. Staff needs to develop competencies that match their own ability and interests in order to successfully innovate in the supermarket. In order to become innovative shop employees should be granted the authority to engage in knowledge work. In the supermarkets that we visited during the research, we found various interventions that could support the development of ownership and entrepreneurship of the supermarket staff. I've attached the paper to this entry. 


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DeJong_Verdonschot_Kessels_Shop assistants as innovators.pdf282.44 KB