Unplanned work can drive innovation

In the doctoral thesis "Unplanned Managerial Work: A Driver for Knowledge Creation and Innovation Capabilities in Manufacturing SMEs", Kristina Sollander at the School of Engineering, Jönköping University, takes a closer look at management work in manufacturing SMEs. One of the conclusions is that unplanned work can benefit innovation.

Kristina Sollander

In the Western world, we tend to highly value planning and scheduling, but most studies examining managers at work note that they engage in a significant amount of ad hoc and unplanned work.

During her work with the dissertation Kristina Sollander "shadowed" seven different leaders in four different companies for a total of 21 days. During that time, the leaders spent an average of 50 percent on unplanned tasks – with half of this initiated by themselves. The thesis shows that this unplanned work is especially valuable for organisational learning and innovation work. Furthermore, it shows the importance of valuing both planned and unplanned managerial work to enhance learning and innovation capability throughout the organization.

Value and encourage unplanned managerial work

"Let us value and encourage unplanned managerial work and promote unexpected reflection, both for the individual self, but also together with others. It is an important component for having a learning and innovation-focused organization. This thesis is not only directed towards managers; I hope that even those without managerial positions but who engage in managerial work will find it thought provoking," says Kristina Sollander.

Kristina Sollander's plan is to remain within academia and continue to contribute to the development of knowledge in this field.

"I want to continue investigating managerial work from both planned and unplanned perspectives and would be keen to conduct similar studies in other contexts or from other functions that does not have a managerial role," she says.

The defense took place on 18 August 2023. Opponent was Andreas Wallo, Senior Associate Professor, Linköping University.

Read the thesis here