Labeling Projects as Innovative: A Social Identity Theory
nized as innovative. This understanding
may be useful for formulating innovation strategies on projects and programs,
policy making, and constructing future
narratives. The examples presented of
previous projects seen as innovative
may inform the future, because business leaders find it useful to use the
examples from the past to make sense of
the present and project the future. Further research may take a more longitudinal, action-based research approach,
where researchers collaborate closely
with practitioners with the goal of transferring the research setting through a
process of critical inquiry and action.
Such research could provide insights
on how the perceptions of practitioners on innovative projects change over
time, shaping policy initiatives and
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of operating. There are many examples
of innovative projects of this nature,
including virtual reality, the use of
mobile digital technologies, and mobile
Social identity is a useful frame
through which to understand project identity as a social construct (cf.,
Alvesson & Robertson, 2015; Suddaby et
al., 2010; Schultz & Hernes, 2013). The
notion of an innovative project is seen
as a discursive construct subject to multiple interpretations by stakeholders.
The discursive basis lies in recognition
of the possibility of construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of project
identities. Identity theory offers a creative and insightful way of understanding the innovative project on the basis of
individual perspectives. ‘Innovation’ as
a label is often used by practitioners to
respond to clients’ requests; as a means
of recognition by external stakeholders; and as a retrospective recognition
of achievements. This research extends
the ‘linguistic turn’ occurring in project
management studies (e.g., Enninga &
van der Lugt, 2016; Havermans et al.,
2015), showing that social identity theory is a useful and insightful way of
understanding the notion of innovative projects as a socially constructed
identity label. Labeling projects as innovative has implications for practice as
playing an important role in bolstering a reputation of project-based organizations. Such labels are often used
meaningfully and purposefully in such
Practical Implications and Future Work
The common narrative mobilized in
policy initiatives and government strat-
egies is that people are the driving force
behind successful innovation on proj-
ects. There is a need to attain the best
from people by providing them with the
necessary incentives to achieve. Reflec-
tions of practitioners themselves on
the two-way process (‘top-down’ and
‘bottom-up’) are hence important to
better understanding the nature of the
ways in which projects become recog-
organizations and industries. Exploring
the ‘bottom-up’ approach deeper, it is
evident that projects become recognized
as innovative retrospectively after they
have been completed. Of further note
is that stakeholders who are directly
involved in delivering projects do not
necessarily perceive these projects as
innovative. Projects often become seen
as innovative by external stakeholders
who have an interest in these projects,
but do not have any legal obligations
and responsibilities. For internal stake-
holders, projects are perceived as a
work or a challenge, and these proj-
ects become recognized as innovative
by others. Project leaders feel proud
of achieving innovation on their proj-
ects and this is understood by others.
This article adds to the recent stream
of research on innovative project processes (Davies et al., 2014; Garud et al.,
2014) and addresses recent calls for
more research that examine the nature
of innovative projects through language
and stories mobilized by practitioners
(Taylor & Levitt, 2007; Thomas et al.,
2012; Veenswijk & Berendse, 2008).
Both top-down strategic projects
led by senior management and bottom-up unplanned small-scale projects can
be labeled as ‘base-moving’ projects,
following the categorization offered by
Brady and Davies (2004). Base-moving
projects enable the transformation from
existing bases into a new technology or
market base. Top-down, base-moving
initiatives originate at the corporate level,
starting with strategic decisions to create a project and mobilizing large-scale
resources. Bottom-up, base moving projects are created and executed at operational levels, which move the underlying
bases of operation. The strategic role
played by base-moving projects can be
traced through the historic development
of construction, engineering, and infrastructure project-based industries over
time. Over the past few decades, there
has been a tendency to move beyond the
traditional way of operating based on
cost, time, and quality into digital technologies and customer-focused ways