Innovating and optimizing both contribute to public performance. Public organizations need to be able to incrementally improve their policies, processes, technology and services as well as innovate them to enhance public processes. This thesis describes which capacities are needed to support both processes, and which organizational antecedents contribute to a balanced approach of innovating and optimizing. It also describes the contribution of innovating and optimizing to performance.
A mixed method approach was used: after testing the contribution of connective, ambidextrous and learning capacities at the individual, organisational and network level to optimizing and innovation by structural equation modelling, a focus group approach was used to enhance our understanding of the relationships found. Connective capacity at the individual level contributes to innovating, optimizing and performance.
Managers contribute to optimizing, but not to innovating, due to a high normative pressure to perform, and short term and measurable results oriented performance measurement. At the organizational level learning capacity contributes to innovating and connective capacity to optimizing. At the network level learning and ambidextrous capacity are important to both. Organizational aspects that determine organizational ambidextrous capacity are strategy and procedures, management style and culture. This thesis uncovered different configurations of these aspects, leading to different innovating and optimizing practices. High ambidextrous water authorities show more contextual ambidexterity and perform better than low ambidextrous water authorities.
This thesis also shows that optimizing initially contributes more to performance than innovating. However, this relation is curvilinear, indicating that this contribution diminishes the more optimizing is conducted. The contribution of innovating to performance is linear and substantial, indicating that it is crucial for public service organizations to be dextrous in a coherent approach of both processes. Relevance for practice is discussed.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Innovation, Optimization, Public Performance, ambidexterity, connectivity, learning, Dutch Water Authorities, non-linear, structural equation modelling, mixed method
Promotor A. van Buuren (Arwin) , I.F. van Meerkerk (Ingmar)
Publisher Erasmus University Rotterdam
ISBN 978-94-6332-514-1
Persistent URL
Gieske, J.M.J. (2019, July 4). Innovating and Optimizing for Public Performance : the case of the Dutch Regional Water Authorities. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from