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Climate for innovation: A critical lever in the leadership of innovation

Sheffield, Rob; Kars-Unluoglu, Selen; Jarvis, Carol

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Rob Sheffield
Occasional Associate Lecturer - CBAL - BAM

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Selen Kars
Associate Professor in Organisation Studies

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Carol Jarvis
Professor in Knowledge Exchange, Public and Business Engagement and Innovation


Renu Agarwa

Eric Patterson

Sancheeta Pugalia

Roy Green


Innovation involves an uncertain journey and, although leadership cannot ensure innovation success, it can certainly influence its odds. In this chapter we will explore the concept of organisational climate, an arena where leadership can have a significant influence, in the context of healthcare teams in the National Health Service (NHS) in England. Drawing on data from a longitudinal mixed-methods study conducted between 2012 and 2017, this chapter draws insights from six case studies to explore ways in which leadership can influence climate to support or hinder innovation. We focus on the journey for three teams who improved their climate for innovation, according to a team climate measure administered twice 12 months apart, and another three teams whose climate deteriorated. Including vignettes as illustrations, we identify climate dimensions and leadership practices that catalyse or act as a barrier in making innovation happen. The findings highlight the importance of: understanding the wider context; establishing an agenda for purposeful innovation; protecting ideas in their early, fragile stages through risk mitigation; bounded experimentation; and securing the support of senior influencers. The findings demonstrate climate for innovation is amenable to leadership interventions and practices. These practices can be adapted and adopted in many organisational contexts and will have particular resonance for innovation leaders in high-stakes and/or highly regulated environments. We conclude by posing questions leaders can consider for improving the climate for innovation in their teams and organisations.


Sheffield, R., Kars-Unluoglu, S., & Jarvis, C. (2022). Climate for innovation: A critical lever in the leadership of innovation. In R. Agarwa, E. Patterson, S. Pugalia, & R. Green (Eds.), Innovation (40-60). Routledge.

Acceptance Date May 27, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 21, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Aug 4, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 22, 2024
Publisher Routledge
Pages 40-60
Edition 1st edition
Book Title Innovation
Chapter Number 3
ISBN 9780367343026
Keywords Organisational Climate; Innovation; Leadership; Healthcare
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Copyright Statement
This is the author’s accepted manuscript version of their chapter 'Climate for innovation: A critical lever in the leadership of innovation' from the book 'Innovation' edited by Renu Agarwal, Eric Patterson, Sancheeta Pugalia, Roy Green, published by Routledge (Taylor and Francis) in 2022. The final published version is available here:

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