An exploration of the determinants of innovation
: the top management team, organisational climate and organisational learning

  • Sarah MacCurtain

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Some researchers argue that the top team, rather than the CEO, is a better predictor of an organisation’s fate (Finkelstein & Hambrick, 1996; Knight et al., 1999). However, others suggest that the importance of the top management team (TMT) composition literature is exaggerated (West & Schwenk, 1996). This has stimulated a need for further research on TMTs. While the importance of TMT is well documented in the innovation literature, the organisational environment also plays a key role in determining organisational outcomes. Therefore, the inclusion of both TMT characteristics and organisational variables (climate and organisational learning) in this study provides a more holistic picture of innovation. The research methodologies employed includes (i) interviews with TMT members in 35 Irish software companies (ii) a survey completed by managerial respondents and core workers in these companies (iii) in-depth interviews with TMT members from five companies. Data were gathered in two phases, time 1 (1998-2000) and time 2 (2003). The TMT played an important part in fostering innovation. However, it was a group process, rather than team demography, that was most strongly associated with innovation. Task reflexivity was an important predictor of innovation time 1, time 2). Only one measure of TMT diversity was associated with innovation - tenure diversity -in time 2 only. Organisational context played an important role in determining innovation. This was positively associated with innovation - but with one dimension of organisational learning only. The ability to share information (access to information) was not associated with innovation but the motivation to share information was (perceiving the sharing of information to be valuable). Innovative climate was also associated with innovation. This study suggests that this will lead to innovative outcomes if employees perceive the organisation to support risk, experimentation and other innovative behaviours.
Date of Award2005
Original languageEnglish


  • innovation
  • top management team
  • organisational climate
  • organisational learning

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