Building for the Innovation Business Case

One of the toughest aspects within Innovation is making the Business Case. Much of the information is imperfect, the returns are often fuzzy and unclear in the early stages and the doubters line up ready to block and deter new ideas from entering the commercialization process. Justifying new innovation can be often really hard too make to others.

How can you reduce down many of these uncertainties?

Often what is missing is ensuring the innovation business case takes a clear methodical approach and builds the arguments up in a sound structured way. Far to many cases are based on emotion and gut feel. Some of these clearly work but an awful lot get lost along the way, especially in the more structured organization. So often good ideas are ‘killed’ because the Business Case was not as well thought through as possible. It simply became the necessary chore at the end of a set of events that were in themselves a mountain to climb. It is putting together the best possible business case is the last nine yards, sometimes the hardest to achieve but the accumulation of all your efforts rest on this docusment in many cases.

A good business case for innovation concepts need to show the areas of clear discussion, not just ‘brushing over’ the unknowns but attempting to quantify and qualify them as best as you can with the (imperfect) information to hand. It needs to ensure conclusions do reduce down the more ’emotive’ parts, so as to allow the ‘idea or concept’ to firm up, stand tall and be seen for their real merits. Deep conviction needs to come through when there are a number of unknowns to allow for genuine discussion and growing identification in solving issues and evaluating risks as a common point.

We often do miss vital steps or forget to view the issues from all our stakeholders’ perspectives also.

We write often the business case from our own perspectives not from others, especially not from the consumer insights that might have started us off on the given journey in the first place. We also need to reflect and account for the multiple stakeholders, both internally and externally, that this idea  is trying to address through the innovation concept we are proposing.

Knowing the issues, reducing often the ‘noise and distractions’ and making the professional case is what we need to do to attract commitment to the projects we are working upon, we also need to consciously work on keeping it on track. This all helps.

So what is the suggested approach we should be taking?

Firstly I would argue each organization needs a clear systematic model that you go through, everyone goes through, and that takes the business case through a structured step-by-step approach. It needs to allow enabling arguments based on facts to build and grow, to lay out challenges and uncertainties. This enables that everyone involved can see the same steps of approach taken in making their business case. Transparency gives similarity and the ‘common’ business evaluation provides a consistency of approach to all cases, irrespective across the organization. It gives everyone the same platform to justify their business case.

Within this step-by-step approach you do need to require a comprehensive case building technique.

This building step technique will help move you towards a compelling business case that provides all stakeholders their essential information in this more transparent, consistent process for everyone.

The Business Case needs to include within its proposal:

  • There will be different creativity tools to start the process but the need is to structure the project information on a comparable basis. This requires laying out often difficult definitions of success, providing suggested guidelines to individuals listening to attempt to get everyone on the ‘same page’ so as to judge the case, provide different options of alternatives to ‘getting ready’ within the case and what these might means and then clrearly point to where these issues can be possibly resolved. Innovation in its early stages is full of open questions and the hard work is trying to answer these as best you can, ignoring the difficult issues does not help your case I would argue, it is better to address them as best you can.
  • Then we move into building the business case preparation, cost and benefit analysis (where we can), clarifying opportunity needs (for instance unmet customer needs), offer different factor analysis, assessing stakeholder interests, clarifying uncertainties where you can.
  • The next group of factors to consider is making the clear assessments of competition, outlining the tactical moves to be considered for market attractiveness, the implications, the ability to execute and what business model does the business case take to provide the fit and attract the commitment. Finally how to stage this- through piloting, trails or moving towards full blown commercialisation and what each will entail in commitment and resources.
  • Lastly, to go back through the Business Case elements to present a format that builds up and breaks down the case logically with the best available inputs that includes the unique selling proposition and the future resources needed to translate this case into a winning commercial prospect. do lay out clear time lines and milestones and the projected financial and commercial value it would provide as best as you can. do remember discussing the unknowns actually does reduce down conflicts and allows for more combining best opinions and shared thinking.

Moving an idea into a mainstream activity is one of the hardest aspects to achieve

Making the innovation business case a winning one is not down to luck, it is down to a systematic approach to building up the compelling case for this. Approaching this is a well-structure, methodical way takes out much of the guess work and the emotions if it is seen as logical, well thought through and defined. Innovations are often ‘fuzzy’ but adding to this with a poorly crafted approach opens the door to disappointment.

Making the case in a well structured process gives greater opportunity for identification and realization. Crafting a compelling business case based on the best available facts and raising the open issues allows for a mature discussion of its merits. Hiding facts, poorly laying out the business case, not putting enough thinking into this final document is often more the reason for an idea being ‘killed off’ than you think. Do you have a good innovation business case structure?

Are we constantly checking for the ‘pulse’ of innovation?

So often our innovation health seems to change abruptly or equally just simply slip away. It could be caused by many things: a call for reorganization or restructuring or a key part of the team decides to leave. It might be the organization has a second quarterly drop in sales and profits or those layoff simply keep cutting away until you are into the bone. Suddenly the ‘beating heart’ of innovation seems to slow and sometimes even stops completely. Innovation abruptly goes into intensive care.

We so often miss the ‘vital signs’ of healthy innovation as we get caught up in the issues of the day, in defending our corner or simply playing safe, hoping the ‘ill winds’ that constantly blow over us go away. In the meantime we often we fail to recognize what has ebbed away in creative energy or innovation initiatives until we are heading for the emergency ward, fighting for our competitive lives as others who we had been competitively jogging along with have stayed fit and healthy and simply ‘kept on innovating’ and pulled away. Where did our fitness actually go?

So how do we check our innovation vital signs?

I think there are many ways we can make constant checks and often when I’m visiting organizations you can begin to sense these vital signs and pick up on many warning signs from the conversations, from that ‘buzz’ that does or does not seem to be circulating around the building, or the way the people simply talk to you about innovation. They often don’t speak of innovation with pride but in whispers carefully checking that no one important is in hearing distance, often with implied innuendo of the things not right, more than the many good things that are actually healthy and good. Many times I find it is simply what is not said that speaks volumes about the health of innovation within organizations.

So what do I use for part of my pulse check on my visits?

If you don’t hear about the plans around the business growth with a real sense of personal conviction and enthusiasm you need to become more alert. It is how people convey their personal convictions about their innovation values, how they balance realism of their role with all the multiple pressures simply gives you clues of a health warning or not. Do they transmit energy or not? What likely ‘impact’ do they see these might have on their innovation future? This engagement or not does give you an opening warning signal to examine this further within your conversations and explore what are the vital signs that feed into this present attitude. You are beginning your diagnosis through this ‘initial’ pulse.

Checking for different vital signs of a healthy innovation organization

  • So often in conversations within organizations you never seem to get that unbridled, confident feeling that they are fostering imaginative business models, let alone knowing there are different ones they could pursue. They really struggle to articulate the innovation story and that is not healthy. A healthy mind is an enquiring mind.
  • You also sometimes don’t get any real feeling of experimentation going on, as actively being pursued within the organization. You need to check how this essential element is encouraged or ignored, learnt or overlooked, testing constantly is the equivalent of having a series of warm up ‘runs’ before being ready for the big one. Also it is worth asking about the ways they seemingly manage risk and look to extract value? Is it left to a chosen few or supported and encouraged for all to learn. Often you simply get that shrug of the shoulders when you ask or its left hanging in the air as something we need to do but as yet have not got around to it. We are comfortable the way we are.
  • You can hear of how “we are achieving X, Y & Z” but with some probing you gather a fair amount of the success would not be coming about without the explicit help of the partners that are contributing to make this happen. Innovation needs partners, it is not a solitary pursuit, it needs to be open to collaboration and alliances, and it needs to flourish with a host of different inputs that provide diversity, provide fresh insights, different skills and rich new experiences. How often do you hear these collaborative stories with any pride or grateful acceptance? Checking how open an organization is tells you much now days.
  • The ‘mantra’ of disciplined innovation is heard often nowadays and how it can contribute to competitive outcomes but what is often not stated for innovation is what makes up that organizations sustainable process. Demonstrated outcomes and results are usually simply delegated to C-Level presentations in their quarterly reviews for shareholders? We should be checking the vital signs for what is sustaining the innovation process and that should be a source of ongoing pride known and spoken about by all each time they have the opportunity to talk about innovation. I’m looking to understand the ongoing fitness programme regime not the quarterly result.
  • When you often join the organization you hear about all the positive energy, the commitments to you and the value of ‘its’ people and their contribution. When do you hear about the way innovation motivates people- the positives, what excites them and motivations them in the way it can engage? If innovation is the lifeblood of an organization I want to hear more on this to understand its real ‘life giving’ flow to everyday activity.
  • I always seem to come back in any conversations to ‘context’. If I don’t understand this I simply can’t really give any decent opinion, let alone a qualified one that is often expected without much insight.  It still surprises me on how often context is simply forgotten or ignored and there is a real danger in that. It is piecing this part of the jigsaw together that gives us a thorough understanding and appreciation of the factors that were in play to get to a given point. If we don’t know these then we are often wasting our energies on the wrong part of any future innovation fitness and where to channel our efforts. Context gives me the ability to add additional content.
  • Lastly, it is through the leadership we get the best sense of the beating ‘pulse’ of innovation in an organization. The leaders don’t have to be physically in the room but if you don’t hear the vision, the stretch in the goals set by them, the guide lines of how this is going to happen how do you know what to do to become fit? Leaders are coaches, they should inspire, encourage, cajole, be ready to support and ask you to try and achieve. They should assist the organization in all ways possible.  It is through this innovation regime you raise the pulse and push your performance. A good coach is deeply committed to improving your fitness and raising your game by equipping you with all that is necessary so you have the best chance to achieve any vision or goals.

The innovation pulse can often lead to a need for a deeper fitness examination

Whichever way you read the ‘pulse’ of innovation, the above suggestions can begin to lead you into a better understanding of the health of innovation within organizations. Exploring expectations, checking these against realities and by gaining that ‘feel’ for the environment does gives you more of the readiness, state, purpose and critical aspects that need working upon to raise the innovation fitness and avoid the risk of having a period of stay in the intensive care.

If we don’t train daily for innovation fitness and understand the value of all the enablers around us, we can miss a number of vital signs and then miss the real healthy beat of innovation success. Have you taken your innovation pulse lately? Perhaps you need to see your doctor and have an assessment.

Placing Design into the Innovation Equation

Let me be clear, this is not my blog entry I really wish it was. It is the relevant part of a blog written by Sarah Stein Greenberg ( that just seemed to hit one of those ‘buttons’ that sum something up so well, and in this case, I think the best compliment is to just share it. I’ve put in what I feel are appropriate headings for ease of reading only.

It is about the power of design and interaction to make something new happen fast.

Tackling messy problems

“A pressing question for more established economies… is how to foster more entrepreneurship and innovation despite greater stability and predictability. One method that companies and individuals are adopting is design thinking—the approach of scaling or “group-sizing” the way that solo designers have always worked to enable to cross-functional teams tackle messy problems that don’t fit neatly into any one person’s job description or academic discipline.

Design thinking is one way to simulate some of the extremely dynamic conditions of an emerging economy and foster entrepreneurship in the US.

Forcing direct contact with users

The idea is to put teams in situations where they are forced to synthesize meaningful opportunities out of a lot of highly subjective data about the world and the needs of end users. At the Stanford, for example, classes are all project based, and require students to have direct contact with users to gain empathy and test ideas, including the use of ethnographic research to quickly gain insight into unfamiliar environments, communities, and systems.

Imposed constrained time lines

The projects also force students to operate under highly constrained timelines. This can effectively replicate the whirlwind conditions that entrepreneurs in emerging markets experience – consumer needs and the whole ecosystem are changing so rapidly that they have to adopt an iterative approach to nearly everything. Cultivating skills in quickly assessing complex situations with fresh eyes – and swiftly getting prototypes out into the world to test ideas concretely are what allow design thinkers to conquer uncertainty and create concrete opportunities from open-ended project mandates.

A wonderful example of  taking a ‘raw’ idea into a fast prototype

Two graduate students taking a course this past spring used design thinking to go from idea to revenue-generating product in just 6 weeks. That product is Pulse, which quickly shot up the iPad app charts to become the number one selling app. Pulse is a newsreader that allows users to rapidly toggle between multiple sources and articles.

Once they had the original seed of the idea from conducting user research, the Pulse founders sat in a café and tested a low-resolution version of their product with potential users. They quickly iterated in response to feedback, coding new aspects of the software in the time it took to drink a latte. Unconcerned with whether the next version was 100% ready or “right,” their bias was to learn from low-res prototypes as quickly as they could.

By using design thinking to collaborate and innovate, these two students were able to upend what seemed like an established market for digital newsreaders and compete with major incumbent players like the New York Times. Skills in design thinking are a foundation for finding hidden patterns and making something real and actionable emerges from an uncertain environment.”

My comment: this is such a great illustration of the power of design interacting with potential users, so as to discover if the idea firstly ‘gels, meets a need and can be worked on really fast in prototypes to deliver on that.

Moving towards a more distributed innovation model

How are we going to really unlock the true potential of frontline managers, middle managers and the whole workforce for ‘seeing’ and engaging for their contribution to innovation?

Far too many organizations still don’t provide the opportunity for everyone to contribute to innovation. I think as open innovation moves from the labs and research centres OI will be one of the ways for a shift in thinking to take place, not just with the outside world but within the inside organisation for a number of reasons.

Critical needs of open innovation are the trust, the behaviours and the relationships that need to be at the forefront of thinking when you engage in more opening up to fresh avenues of innovation thinking. I think this changing mindset of how to manage within will permeate throughout the organization more and more as these (often dormant but available) skills get put into practice more.

We struggle to get rid of the ‘command and control’ approach to encourage more distributed sharing and exchanges to reflect the need today of being more agile and fluid in how we meet rapidly changing market conditions and counter threats or seize breaking opportunities.

How can we influence leadership in everyday contexts?

As a starting point to distribute innovation we need to reset the innovation mindset. Formally appointed managers will never achieve without gaining the respect of the people around them, which is simply a common fact of life! We still have incredible difficulty learning this in many organizations. It does seem a more distributed leadership structure built on individuals who have strength to influence others is more likely to succeed- the respect of your peers has greater power than impose and control.

We often recommend organizations seek out and appoint passionate champions (W L Gore) or ecosystem champions (P&G) to organize and influence innovation work. There is a lot of research work presently going on that is studying the type of behaviors, traits, characteristics needed for these pivotal innovation roles so they can be used for the appropriate need to encourage and ‘push’ existing initiatives or champion new ideas. It can flatten the organization structure.

The flat lattice organization is a start.

W.L Gore practice a distributed leadership model that has a ‘lattice’ structure where they discourage hierarchy, titles and trying to impose and look to encourage the ‘voice’ from within the organisation to self commit and identify in a culture that demands each to offer their unique contribution to delivering innovation. They work on achieving respect throughout the organisation based on a fascinating set of disciplines NOT rules and hierarchy. They build into everyone’s job innovation.

Distributed innovation requires a flow of knowledge

Innovation has many definitions but one I might mention here is it is ‘doing new things or improving existing things that add greater value’ is a great place to start for everyone in your organization to actively seek out their potential contributions. If we feel our contribution is valued this becomes a powerful motivator not just to turn up for work, but to engage in new productive work. It becomes a more dynamic environment, not static to work within and just attempt to identify with.

What is changing constantly around us in this distributed innovation need and we need to put a better system in place to capture distributed knowledge. Networks are giving us all that incredible shift to ‘connecting for value’ not just ‘discovery’, we are constantly needing to re-arrange, recombine, react and explore to problem-solve and often improvise on a daily basis.

Recognizing  what helps knowledge to flow in a distributed innovation model

–          Recombination’s and connections will help us within a more distributed innovation society to manage.

–          The geography of innovation knows no barriers. If we don’t operate in a more distributed way we are going to miss so many ‘breaking’ concepts that are occurring in innovation on a daily basis. We need to capture these. This requires front line effort and capital but by distributing the task, you have the chance of a greater knowledge flow.

–          How do we cultivate ‘global people’ power? In a world of changing knowledge we need to recognise that educating and informing our people and our network of what we are doing will lead to contribution, to the capture of knowledge and reveal the skills dormant in us all to indentify productive knowledge.

–          How can we design for greater learning? How can we turn knowledge into innovation potential?

–          How can we build in greater levels of collaboration and adaptability? These are human dimensions we need to encourage by distributing the tools and clarity of purpose to those within our company to ramp up the innovation pay-offs increasingly expected.

–          Innovation is full of ambiguity, often little clarity so you need to give your organisation that greater freedom and permission to investigate, capture and push back knowledge through this distributed innovation network.

Distributed innovation needs to cultivate Absorptive behavior and allow it to flow.

We need a system to capture and allow knowledge to flow. For me the adoption model seems to be one worth investigating. If we want to achieve the goal of distributed innovation we need to have in place this possible framework. Nesta ( produced a report some time back called “innovation by Adoption” and I feel this has a good framework that support distributed innovation.

The report argues in a place with a strong absorptive capacity three main outputs subsequently result from the flow of external or distributed knowledge: (1) the creation of new innovation; (2) the creation of new knowledge; and (3) that it does lead to new economic and social value.

Innovation by adapting the adoption model within your distributed innovation needs.

If we agree that most innovations happen outside often self-imposed boundaries then we have to extend to all our boundaries and beyond. We have to open up. We certainly understand that today innovation is not confined with the walls of one particular company. The world ‘absorbs’ more innovation than we can turn into greater value but we need to attempt to capture this and see if and where its value might lie. This is going to be achieved more likely within a distributed approach asking everyone to contribute to innovation ideas and providing them on a consistent basis the likely content and context fit that they need to look for .

We need to continue to push innovation created often locally, back up through the organization so it can potentially turn these insights into  innovation that will find a place in our world that improved on the existing that was something that we contributed too, that can be highly motivating. For this to happen organization have to recognize the inter-dependency and reliance that a diversified, distributed engaged group of people can bring to accelerate innovation to share, explore and work on turning ideas into new solutions .

What we need to find is ways to absorb this flow of daily knowledge, quickly recognize where it might meet our needs and then fit these to the wider audiences available that search for innovative solutions. There is an awful lot that can derive from a more distributed innovation network that allows a greater flow across a networked organization.

Approaching absorption in two ways

Absorptive capacity captures and enables this flow in each direction. Nesta through its research into this absorptive need  also suggested a model called the AC/DC model where they argue you need to develop two broad sets of capacities: the absorptive capacity (AC) to identify, value, and assimilate and the development capacity (DC) of places to develop and exploit such knowledge.

AC/DC Model

We need to adopt a more distributed innovation model in our thinking

Applying these two models into your thinking to achieve a more distributed innovation model would help to capture, anchor and diffuse all the innovation that lies not just within the ‘walls’ of your organization but just beyond where your local people can see it, value it and bring it into the organisation as one of their contributions to innovation.

Permit people to ‘see’, to ‘engage’, to become ‘deeply involved’ then organizing around distributed innovation can lead to greater empowerment and sustaining your innovation engine and knowledge. Fortune will favour the connected mind not just the brave lonely few.

Are you building your distribution innovation model yet?

Opening up your thinking to dynamic capabilities for innovation success

As someone who runs a small, independent consulting and research business that is 100% focused on innovation, I am always grateful for the continued involvement of the bigger consulting companies in producing sound, relevant and topical research issues on innovation. They ‘stoke the innovation fire within’, they confirm what you felt you knew but needed it to be validated. These great sources include McKinsey, Bain & Co, Booz & Co, Monitor, BCG, ADL and to a lesser degree Accenture for innovation research. There are others but the ability to have access to C-Level thinking is this groups real strength and so they come more immediate to mind.

The emphasis is on distinct capabilities for innovation success.

Recently we had the release of the annual Global Innovation 1000 from Booz & Co (now Strategy&), updated under “global innovation” and there was an increased emphasis on distinct capabilities that each company has in talent, knowledge, team structures, tools and processes that are put together to enable their innovation efforts. Booz calls this the “coherence premium”.

I regard these as “the dynamics within the capabilities that need to be fully understood and needed to be focused upon to be more successful in innovation”.

Irrespective, those big, consistent growing questions still nag away in the CEO’s mind on innovation .

“What and where do I place my limited (and scarce) resources to maximise the impact of our innovation efforts and how can I be sure?”

“What are those capabilities that generate differential advantage?” How can the CEO or CIO identify the links and connections they want to make their innovation activity align more with the overall capabilities system they have in place? Where does the CEO place his ‘bets’ to get the limited resources he has available aligned to gain this better return on the investments in innovation?

Can we identify a common set of critical innovation capabilities?

I believe we can. Something that is not as it is presently, scattershot in building innovation capabilities but distinct to what the CEO wants to achieve, knowing the capabilities that matter most to their particular innovation strategy and then in his awareness of the organizations innovation fitness learn how to improve, focus and execute these distinct capabilities needed in a highly focused manner- sound too good to be true? I don’t think so.

My work on dynamic capabilities for innovation

Over a period of the last eighteen months or so, I have been studying and researching this whole area. I have some hypotheses that need testing but the outcome of this effort to date has got me closer to believing we can achieve greater identification with those distinct capabilities to support EACH unique position.

Firstly you have to keep in mind the big four issues to think around 1) the Environment Complexity, 2) The Existing Asset Base, 3) the Value Creation Mechanisms established, and lastly 4) the Organizing Context of what innovation needs to achieve for the organization. Context for me is really important and often lacking.

The objectives behind this work are to show present and future impact of innovation.

Simply put it is to provide a robust model that understands the critical aspects that impact innovation, that can show the critical dependencies to focus upon and understand there need, so these can lead to which ones are more likely to deliver ‘greater’ growth through a more focused approach and provide longer‐term sustainability in innovation activity.

Background of why this model is potentially important to provide.

All companies talk about innovation and its growing importance but few succeed in actually doing it on a repeatable scale. What inhibits innovation? What would drive innovation success? What aspects of innovation are critical to have so innovative growth can be achieved? Where should a company place its emphasis to gain both an improving impact on its performance and strengthen its innovation capabilities?

Let me firstly outline the challenge I see.

Knowing what are the critical factors and their dependencies for sustaining innovation success is vital to understand so that an organization can place the appropriate resources behind them. The questions are: which are critical, which naturally occur when others begin to be put into place, which seem to have limited or no real effect on changing the dynamics of innovation? Knowing these answers and having these clearer to achieve a higher ‘return on impact/investment’ (ROII) has a real business value.

Today, we lack a clear system model that brings the critical innovation factors out and gives them their appropriate values of importance so resources can be allocated accordingly. Also if this can further be extended to provide the ability to model different future states and conceived future scenarios through different impact-investment simulations, this would certainly provide a strong relational tool for assessing business and innovation allocation with the appropriate resources to achieve a greater ‘fitness and impact’ in innovation to focus upon within their capability build.

Today’s challenges lies with understanding Dynamics Capabilities and the organizations fitness to innovate.

Firm resources are scarce; we still don’t understand the ‘dynamics’ of innovation, the interdependency of the parts, this framework I’m presently working upon sets out to achieve this. Which parts have greater impact, which are not so important? Innovation is still not treated company-wide in a holistic way as recognition of the dependencies is poorly understood. This is what I want to change. What and where do you place your resources to gain greater impact? What is important to recognize as needing additional ‘weight and focus’, what capability and competencies need to have a stronger emphasis and why? How can we identify these, make the innovation process more dynamic yet these embed constantly as routines? What would happen if we ignore certain innovation aspects, what would give greater impact to our business?

Why each company needs to know its Fitness Landscapes

The pressing need for a firm is to integrate, build and reconfigure internal and external competencies and capabilities to address rapidly changing environments and it is the ability to achieve new, more innovative forms in rapid changing market conditions that will emerge as the winners of the innovation race.

This calls for more ‘dynamic capability” to be achieved. The basic question that needs to be addressed is “what are our dynamic capabilities?” More importantly “which critical ones should we focus upon to improve our capabilities and competences to innovate?” Fitness landscapes provide the understanding of the existing position and then point to where to place your resource so as to improve your innovative capacity through understanding the dynamics of ALL the parts and selecting the ones that are the critically important ones for the organization to achieve their goals.

Jumping to the end result of what I want to achieve.

Progressively within this blog I can outline this concept further as I continue. Now is not the time as my work is still a significant work-in-progress, and I am searching for ways to take this forward quickly through a collaborative format where the potential partner can support and develop this further. Do you have any collaborative  suggests?

All I can do at present is share the result outcomes I would like to achieve from this work:

Expected results I am seeking out of this work will lead too:

  1. A framework that moves towards a company-wide development program that gains identification and the target of company-wide improvement of routines and different skills required for innovation to succeed/ improve and be distinctive.
  2. Pursuing limited or ‘selective’ development will not have the desired effect, it is not just a human resource department exercise or individual division or team level exercise, but provide a framework that offers the real answer to innovation and why it does require a ‘holistic’ view of innovation development to manage.
  3. Be in a position to challenges long-established organizational capabilities and routines that are taking place by knowing where (and why) they reside and are often more ‘static’ in reality than understood. Often many of these ‘static’ capabilities are simply not valuable to further invest in, the waste of precious funds just for the sake of it, as other areas identified offer a more dynamic aspect closer to achieving the strategic results set within the corporate strategy for innovation return.
  4. Importance of linking capability to become dynamic with the strategy gives greater alignment and potential and can offer a clear capability portfolio where resource needs to be applied to bring new value and alignment to the organizations goals.
  5. The internal dialogue generates a self-reflection process for identification of true and ‘false’ dynamic capabilities and identifies the more static ones that often just need reinforcement. The solutions draw out internal discussions for a recognition and reality of the present and future needs in this area of innovation resource allocation.
  6. It provides the means to achieve additional resource allocation and raising the importance of these to support the strategic intent of the company and it intensifies and solidifies the studies and importance of innovation within the framework of the organization as an area of specialized knowledge.
  7. Results achieved from this raises the need to understand dynamic innovation capability. Knowing the importance and effect of dynamism for the growing need of greater flexibility and agility in changing, challenging times becomes a clear focus. Then through seeking routines and knowing the diversity within these choices, one can identify the basis of sound differentiation to meet different innovation challenges.

My closing thoughts here.

Can I achieve this framework; I stated that I think so. Clearly there are many variables or factors for innovation success and far too often organizations suffer from the inability to sustain innovation over time. There is a failure to fully appreciate or recognize that there are many inter-dependencies that surround innovation. We must break out of selecting innovation activities that simply appeal or are the current vogue. To generate sustaining, distinctive innovation does not have to be elusive, it is through a more comprehensive, holistic approach and recognition of the dynamics within innovation capabilities that are needed to solve your objectives. I’m working on it as we do need to provide a more comprehensive framework for knowing which capabilities are the important ones to focus upon and which are not.

Taking on the world; unfettered, different and holistic innovation

Taking a little more time out to delve into the excellent articles provided by Europe’s top innovation on-line magazine, one article caught my eye. It compelled me to comment upon as it relates to Singapore that is dear to my heart. This was about the Singapore Management University ( and the new Presidents vision of its future place.

Inter-disciplinary research for equipping students for comprehensive solutions

Professor Arnoud De Meyer, the new president, recently made his inaugural address laying out the future of SMU. He stated “Inter-disciplinary research and teaching will be key to producing graduates who can give comprehensive solutions for a changing society”. He was also recognizing one of the present barriers within Universities was the way promotions come about from peer review and publications of a single discipline within the faculty. This rather ‘myopic’ view of expertise by many present day academics is certainly outdated. We need more holistic, cross-disciplined research as the solutions in today’s world that are needed are more in complex than ever before. If Professor De Meyer can help bring about this sort of change in academic thinking it will certainly begin to separate SMU and distinguish it in a crowded field, and I think it certainly needs to establish differentiation, as it presently has little legacy to hinder it after only being ten years in existence.

Formidable academic barriers

The real challenge within this is to overcome some formidable barriers to academic change. SMU has the potential of cultivating an unbridled spirit of innovation on campus if they set about it correctly.  Within their broader community  where faculty, staff and students  interact with outside society so many connecting ideas can be ‘free’ to flow through this concept of cross-disciplinary research, and then through their teaching from this. Why, well not just because SMU is a young, superbly equipped campus lying  not only in the heart of Asia and Singapore itself. It is because it recognises it needs to be different and offer a paradigm shift in offering students not that silo focus based on old traditional management disciplines. It is no longer adequate to answer the needs and challenges of organizations today with these outdated approaches and SMU needs to pioneer the way to differentiate so it can eventually rank among the top business institutes worldwide. It simply can’t by copying existing institutions.

Innovation lies at the heart of cross-discipline knowledge

New cross-discipline knowledge is certainly at the heart of innovation so as to drive future growth and delivers new solutions to more complex problems. If we improve our academic institutions to provide different ways to see and solve problems it will certainly help us be an awful lot better to exploit this ‘combined’ knowledge.  We also gain a better understanding of ourselves, how and where we fit in our society to make a contribution as we gain a broader perspective and reduces misunderstandings.

Education delivery has to change and catch up

There is many comments that education delivery systems has tailed off, and struggling to establish themselves to the changes going on around us. They are simply not catching up and this is why I welcome this initiative at SMU.  Can one university or a small, but growing group of like minded ones, take on the entrenched position by many academics and other institutions that simply refuse to change? Professor De Meyer plans to encourage faculty to publish inter-disciplinary research and to acknowledge the higher level of difficulty in such research during promotional reviews. I understand this point but this alone is not enough to complete his vision, it needs to be something that is part of a broader, bolder vision that benefits society and the students to ‘see the world’ in new and different ways.

Innovation enables new learning potential

I believe innovation lies at the core to rally around. Innovation can be the enabler of this cross-border encouragement through the emphasis on the study and teaching of innovation and how it links the cross-disciplinary research.  To move beyond traditional boundaries and models, to embrace the potential of cross disciplinary research you need to have leading-edge learning practice, where innovation is cutting across the old divides of formal education and silo learning

Professor De Meyer has begun a significant journey by making this issue of ‘Inter-disciplinary research and teaching as key’ to producing graduates who can give comprehensive innovative solutions for a changing society. He needs supporting and encouraging. How can we support this?