Innovation Management in Swedish Municipalities

  • Thomas Wihlman Mälardalen University
  • Magnus Hoppe Mälardalen University
  • Ulla Wihlman Independent Researcher
  • Hélène Sandmark Mälardalen University


Research on public sector innovation is still limited, and increased knowledge of innovation processes is needed. This article is a based on a study of the fulfillment of innovation policies in Swedish municipalities and gives a first-hand, empirical view of the complexities of innovation in the public sector.

The study took place in four municipalities in central Sweden. The municipalities varied in size and organizational forms. Interviews and policy documents were used for data collection.

The results showed that the innovation policies were not followed by action, which may be described as not mobilizing dynamic capabilities to create innovativeness. Thus, dynamic capabilities such as learning and HRM were not used in conjunction with innovation.

Particularly amongst senior management there was a negative attitude towards the innovative capacity of their organization. Middle management saw possibilities. However barriers such as extensive control systems removed the focus from innovation. Communication lacked between senior management and middle management regarding innovation. The conclusion was that innovation, as both concept and practice, was not fully embraced by the municipalities.

It is suggested that a generative leadership, opening up for communication within the organizations, especially between employees, could be beneficial and that a common understanding and definition of the innovation concept is needed.  Integration of top-down processes with bottom-up processes, such as employee-driven innovation, is also suggested.

Author Biographies

Thomas Wihlman, Mälardalen University
PhD, Working Life Science, Department of Psychology, Academy of Health, Care and Social Welfare
Magnus Hoppe, Mälardalen University

PhD, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Mälardalen University, Sweden

Ulla Wihlman, Independent Researcher

DrPH, Independent Researcher, Stockholm, Sweden

Hélène Sandmark, Mälardalen University

Associate Professor, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Sweden