Productivity effects of innovation, stress and social relations

Rifka Weehuizen, Bulat Sanditov & Robin Cowan


Innovation is a source of increasing productivity, but it is also a source of stress. Psychological research shows that moderate stress increases the productivity of an actor, but above a certain level, additional stress decreases productivity. Stress is reduced by coping behaviour of the actor, and in addition it is bu_ered by social relations. However, high levels of stress negatively a_ect social relations, causing social erosion. In a formal model including inter-agent dynamics, we show that the variables moderating stress levels are of crucial importance for identifying the overall e_ects of di_erent rates of innovation on productivity. The model shows among other things that the existence and nature of relationships of people determine the extent to which a certain rate of innovation e_ectively results in increasing productivity. In addition, it shows the possibility of multiple equilibria - under some parameter values both high- and low-stress steady states exist; and the dynamics exhibit hysteresis. At very high levels of stress, innovation can result in a dissolution of social relations, and has a negative relationship with the rate of economic growth.

JEL codes : O4; J28; C61 Keywords: innovation; work-related stress; social relationships

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872