There is a continuing need to build the management of innovation into a clear organizational capability, where innovation becomes a continuous effective innovation process. Now is the time to engage for change.
To this end I have produced a conceptual model of what constitutes the ‘make up’ for providing an ongoing innovation performance engine- the innovation fitness landscape and the dynamics– that determine the appropriate capabilities and capacities available & required. I felt it needs a dedicated website to be the ‘go to’ source of reference. It is a work-in-progress so please recognize this when you visit it here.
This is an evolving journey, any terrain that we travel over does offers very different challenges to build innovation capability into the very fabric of organizations, it needs building and structuring thoughtfully. You will see there are so far already thirteen categories making up this quest to map out and build out this innovation fitness. Each category is part of the total workout we need to go through. I’d suggest be selective in reading these, take your time and as you explore these progressively you will begin to see the overarching ‘fit’ these have with each other but each person, each organization will have different needs to get innovation fit. The more you explore, the more dynamic they become in possibility but it does takes time, for you and for me to build this fitness regime. We do always need a clear starting point and also a journey’s end in mind. See this ‘about’ story we all need to reflect upon.
The recognition that innovation for us all, to make it sustaining, does needs dedicated investment in the understanding of the makeup of the capabilities to build a required ‘innovation performance engine.’ This is to provide more of the rich potential for wealth and value creation required in most organizations. It is an area of serious under-development at present, when you compare this with the focus on physical assets and general make up of offering support with limited direct knowledge application, within the majority of organizations.
The makeup of innovation
Innovation is made up of both tangible and intangible assets. It is the marriage of these two that makes innovation a unique capability to manage in well structured ways. It is the people engaged in innovation activity that make it work. Everything else, the process, structures, technologies and management systems are just the contributing enablers.
The struggle to date is that innovation remains hard to manage well; we strive to systemize it and then attempt to replicate any success we achieve. Often this does not work as the variables that make up innovation can be different for each innovation event or activity.
The important point though is successful innovation contains core elements and processes regardless of industry, form, or type of innovation, we are pursuing. Much of the difference though is in its varying degree’s based on these core elements. Our search was to find those core elements so as to leverage and strengthen them even further to strengthen an organizations capability to innovation continuously in a sustaining manner.
We as organizations strive to achieve distinct competitive advantage, and innovation is one of those real contribution points this can achieve this. The need is to make the innovation capabilities and capacities a distinctive, not easy to copy, unique set. These are shaped by the context and content of innovation, the organizations position and its choice of evolutionary paths it has decided to take or needs to take.
The emphasis points needed for dynamic innovation capabilities
Dynamic capabilities emphasise management capabilities and the inimitable (unique) combinations of resources that are constantly at work across all functions to make them distinctive and valuable.
Distinguishing innovation capabilities that are relevant are based on the type of knowledge they contain. Functional capabilities allow development of technical, practical knowledge. Integrative capabilities allow firms to absorb knowledge from external sources and this is where the absorptive capacity develop comes in. Innovation requires more of a higher-order integrated capability approach to constantly learn, develop, mould and manage multiple capabilities. This required the integration of critical capabilities to successfully stimulate innovation for effective and improving performance.
Many of the identified resources in capabilities have some level of complementary, improving one triggers improvement in another. Equally ignoring one can impact negatively on others. So individual components on their own have limited effect, it is the combination effect that generates the improving performance. Equally, the needs do change over time and you have to constantly ‘refresh, challenge and stimulate’ these otherwise you can have core rigidly set in.
Shifting away from the accepted norm
Innovation understanding and building strength in competencies and capabilities takes an organization beyond the accepted norm of managing efficiency, quality, being responsive and reacting with speed- all challenging within themselves. Innovation represents today’s competitive advantage statement that should be supported by these others. We must avoid dysfunctional consequences and why the existing systems and structures do have to ‘fold into’ new innovation based ones.
Organizations need to shift from the one often still found today, of a higher focus on stability, efficiency and effectiveness for profitability though that current preoccupation with performing routines and formalised structures. The challenge in today’s world is to be adaptable, agile, adjusting to offer consistent instability in the right ways to keep adjusting to the consistent market challenges. Innovation in itself is a force of instability. The shift needed to be made is to balance the dual ‘tensions of stability through efficiency, with change driven by innovation. It is the dynamic forces within the world we operate within that require us to respond and mirror, with equally the capacity for managing dynamic innovation capabilities.
Integrating back or making anew
The challenge is to integrate all of the organizations capabilities into the innovation process, not as many do today, try to integrate innovation into the existing structures- it does not work. The linkage and mechanisms need to be focused on creating new knowledge and competitive advantage, not searching to maintain obtained knowledge offering known results, today we are searching for resolving the unknowns, yet to be articulated needs to grow our markets in ways that customers strongly relate too and reward us for in multiple ways.
So the combination of efficiency of the existing structures needs folding into the more knowledge intensive ‘creative’ new one for achieving competitive advantage.
Innovation capability is defined as the ability to continuously transform incoming knowledge and news concepts and ideas into new products, services, processes, systems and new business models, for the benefit of the organization and the stakeholders. Innovation is about synthesising as well as operating in the two paradigms of efficiency of the existing and innovating new to the world.
The need is to recognize an organization-wide innovation capability that pervades all aspects of the organizations existence, forming the core value system to the measures and behaviours that are exhibited and on show on a daily basis for all to appreciate, assess and value.
Being nimble, flexible for managing across the different domains.
The need is to build a nimble, flexibly effective innovation performance engine that is quick to adapt to those constant changing market conditions. High performance deliberately and systematically enable and motivate the chaotic and complex domains (reference the Cynefin model on this) of novel and emergent practice that ‘present’ divergent behaviours and where the dynamics of innovation lie. Equally knowing the reinforcing practices and processes that make up of existing good and best practice are needed to make these more efficient and effective and reliable in their management.
Each part of the innovation fitness dynamics though is designed to reinforce and extract the innovation performance required of them. It is identifying the elements (both dynamic and more static repeating aspects) that make up the fitness landscape for managing innovation’s performance. I can only encourage you to begin to explore the categories that make up our terrain map to begin to consider your own innovation fitness journey of building capability and capacity that makes you a more dynamic organization to respond to different challenges in todays more fluid and adaptive world.
Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.