The aim of this research was to improve understanding of construction client organizations’ behaviour that affects their ability to overcome organizational lock-in in their new-build decision-making processes, and thus their ability to adopt innovation.
The theoretical frame of reference integrates organizational information processing and three decision-making schools of thought. The methodological approach acknowledges the importance of human interpretation. Most of the empirical data are qualitative, and were collected mainly through in-depth face-to-face interviews with key decision-makers of professional Swedish multi-dwelling client organizations with a property portfolio, both private and public. The research addresses clients’ practices for information processing and new-build decision-making, and their impact on their adoption of more radical innovation, as well as their perceptions and behaviour when facing the radical innovations of industrialized construction of timber-framed multi-dwelling buildings (IB) that extends beyond their frames of reference.
The results show that Swedish clients’ perceptions about IB innovations are affected by both uncertainty and equivocality (i.e. the human problem of managing multiple meanings of information and conflicting interpretations). Thus, managing equivocality appears to be essential for making judgments about radical innovation alternatives. Both individual- (cognitive) and organizational-level barriers to the adoption of IB innovations are identified. These barriers create an organizational lock-in to conventional alternatives because they lead to decision-makers not recognizing the need to revise their heuristics, question given meanings and make different interpretations that would enable them to reach different conclusions. Finally, the results show that the behaviour of innovation adopters differs from that of non-adopters in terms of how they manage uncertainty and equivocality in their new-build decision-making processes.
The research findings show that practices that support decision-making on conventional alternatives can simultaneously present organizational lock-in. They also encourage application of an interpretative approach. The research may contribute to further understanding of means to overcome barriers to the adoption of other types of radical construction innovations, such as sustainable building.