Understanding innovation within the context of the integration of management systems

  1. Alfonso Antonio Gonzaáez Vivanco
Supervised by:
  1. Mercé Bernardo Vilamitjana Director
  2. Claudio Cruz Cázares Director

Defence university: Universitat de Barcelona

Year of defence: 2018

  1. Martí Casadesús Fa Chair
  2. Carmen Cabello-Medina Secretary
  3. Marcus Wagner Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 569013 DIALNET


In an increasingly competitive world driven by fast changes, where resources are limited and where stakeholders are more and more demanding, societies, from individuals to companies and governments, are challenged to pursue sustainable development. This matter has led to the discussion about how organizations manage to innovate in a way that they meet with the requirements of several stakeholders effectively. Although this topic has increasingly caught the attention of scholars and practitioners, there are still major gaps regarding the best managerial practices that promote innovation within a sustainability-oriented framework. Amongst the most recently discussed practices, researchers have identified a potential opportunity in the way companies manage their systems. Therefore, this thesis aims to contribute to this research gap by relating two managerial practices in pursue of sustainability, namely, an effective way of managing systems and innovation. Management systems (MSs) describe the procedures that organizations use in their operations to meet very specific requirements, including those related to quality, environmental, occupational health and safety, among others. Because each MS addresses the concerns of only a few stakeholders, their contribution to innovation and sustainability is often questioned among literature. As a result, companies might prefer integrating such MSs in a way that they could expand their vision of the different stakeholders. This might allow them to simultaneously save resources, eliminate bureaucracy, and attain innovation more smoothly. The integration of MSs (IMS) might also have the advantage of fostering a balanced priority amongst the goals proposed in each function-specific MS. As a result, companies that adopt IMS might be more prone to pursue corporate sustainability, which dimensions are contained, in a fragmented fashion, in each individual MS. Although researchers have acknowledged IMS as an innovative practice closely related to sustainability, the way in which it benefits innovation within this context remains one of the major research gaps in this field. This discussion is therefore one of the main topics analyzed in this work. Moreover, in a globalized world dominated by the creation of knowledge and the exploitation of information, companies no longer operate in closed environments or just looking at the world from the inside-out. Instead, companies might choose adopting business models that allow them to be open to collaborations. This might implicate benefits not only in terms of sharing knowledge, but also of gaining new capabilities, being more efficient innovating and creating new ways of profiting such as licensing, patenting, among others. This brief description of one of the most relevant innovation trends in the worldwide context corresponds to the open innovation (OI) business model. The existing research about OI is very extensive and involves a wide range of fields, including its relationship with innovation, organizational and environmental performance. However, researchers are still debating how OI interacts with the inner management systems and how this relationship contributes to corporate sustainability. Therefore, the interaction between OI and IMS is further analyzed throughout this research. Grounded on the existing literature, this thesis develops specific hypothesis regarding the links between IMS, OI and innovation in pursue of sustainability, which are tested empirically in diverse samples obtained from European and Latin-American companies. Based on this evidence, it is found that the challenges to combine harmoniously the requirements of diverse business stakeholders and companies’ internal procedures seem to be heeded by IMS. More specifically, companies that attain high levels of IMS might improve their innovation capabilities, innovate more efficiently by using less resources and favor corporate sustainability in terms of economic, environmental and social benefits. Moreover, OI seems to have a relevant role in this context, in particular concerning the new capabilities that it brings to open companies. Finally, this thesis intends to provide practitioners and researchers with new insights to manage diverse MSs and innovate in the challenging pursue of sustainability.