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Benefiting from Public Sector Innovation: The Moderating Role of Customer and Learning Orientation


Torsten Oliver Salge is assistant professor of management and innovation at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. He holds a doctorate from the University of Cambridge, where he completed his doctoral thesis on innovation in the public sector. His current research examines ideas from organization theory in the context of public service organizations, focusing on processes of organizational learning and innovation.

Antonio Vera is Full Professor for Organization and Human Resource Management at the German Police University. He received his doctorate from the University of Cologne, Germany. His main areas of expertise are organizational behavior, innovation, and management control, focusing on professional service, public, and health care organizations.


This article examines whether the payoff from engaging in innovation-generating activities is contingent on an organization's level of customer and learning orientation. The authors suggest that innovative activity is associated with higher public service quality when the level of customer and learning orientation within the focal organization is high. They test this hypothesis by drawing on a novel panel data set covering all public nonspecialist hospital organizations in England. Using dynamic panel data estimation techniques, the authors find strong support for a direct relationship between innovative activity and public service quality and for a moderating role of both customer and learning orientation. These findings call for a contingency perspective on public sector innovation and highlight some of the boundary conditions that need to be in place if public service organizations are to benefit fully from their innovative activities.