Tom Burns (1913-2001)
British professor of sociology at Edinburgh University.
His book, The Management of Innovation, written with the psychologist GM Stalker (see below)
emphasized the importance to innovation of freedom, informality, teamwork and empowerment years before people
like Rosabeth Moss
Kanter (pictured right below) did.
The Management of Innovation
(1961), written with GM Stalker
In their research study of Scottish and English
electronics companies, they identified two types of organization:
Organic (best for change and
2. Mechanistic (best for
- similar to Max Weber’s (pictured
right) rational-legal bureaucracy
- hierarchical and autocratic (superiors telling subordinates what to
- clear definition of jobs carried out in a particular department.
- power from position - the chief executive is “all-powerful and all-knowledgeable”
and passes down orders throughout the organization via his (or her) subordinates.
Burns and Stalker's research showed that companies didn't move from a mechanistic to an organic structure when
change (e.g. competition and technological innovation) demanded that they should.
People with hierarchical power felt threatened by organic laboratory teams, resulting in constant conflict
between them. So these teams were:
- isolated from the rest of the organization, or
- turned into a bureaucratic department as part of the mechanistic organization.
To maximize profits from innovation and overcome resistance to change, the chief executive and other managers
must instead support organic teams, despite these being more stressful and demanding on people's
Key quotes on innovation and
A mechanistic management system is appropriate to stable
conditions. The organic form is appropriate to changing conditions which give rise
constantly to fresh problems and unforeseen requirements for action.
The operation of an organic system of management hinges on effective communication.
Management is largely concerned with anticipating change and making alteration.