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Innovation - how accurately do individuals rate themselves at work?


360 degree appraisal is a method of gathering feedback on an individual from others within an organisation.

A research collaboration between Professor Neil Anderson and Dr Kristina Potočnik from the University of Edinburgh Business School investigated innovation competency as part of wider appraisal of management level employees. Data on nearly 3000 employees were analysed.

This research is one of the first to investigate innovation using 360 appraisals through a large scale study. How do we define innovation?

“Innovation refers to the implementation of creative ideas to form better procedures, practices or products”

(Potočnik and Anderson 2012)

And how do we evaluate innovation? The general findings show that innovation can be evaluated by different individuals in an organisation in different ways.

Anderson and Potočnik found that innovation was perceived differently by the target individual compared to those with whom they worked. Target individuals tended to underrate their innovation competence compared to supervisors, subordinates, peers and others in the workplace.

The biggest gap in innovation competency was between the target individuals and their subordinates. Subordinates rated their managers as having higher levels of innovation than the managers themselves. This is perhaps because they are apprehensive of giving their bosses too harsh an assessment.

Based on these findings, Potočnik and Anderson suggest that organisations should be cautious when using 360 degree appraisals, because competencies can be over-evaluated or under-evaluated. 

However, organisations can use this information to develop specific training. Those who under-evaluate their innovation skill can be given structured feedback along with over-evaluators so they can become aware of their skills. In a similar manner, those who felt they were poor innovators could be provided with accurate training in order to increase their self-efficacy.

This and other research on HRM is part of the Human Resource Management and Organization Behaviour Research Group (HRM - OB).