Asset Orchestration is Required for more Dynamic Innovation

to orchestrate 5We all should recognize the incredible power of “orchestration” that is needed in innovation to bring the initial idea into a final successful commercial concept.

We have an ongoing need to create, extend and modify resources constantly and to achieve this we need to orchestrate and enable those resources to exploit and execute on our innovations.

We need to ‘asset orchestrate’.

One of our blind spots is perhaps the focus on pursuing and organizing around innovation just within an organization and not to be as aware of all that is externally going on around us.

There are continued and rapid shifts taking place outside the walls of our organizations, constantly occurring and changing, often it becomes a ‘race’ between spotting an opportunity and executing on it, before your competitors do, or the market further moves on and it becomes a lost opportunity to have exploited.

There is an awful lot of dynamics to consider and are we not just capturing the dynamics of the constant changes but ‘fit’ enough within our organizations to read and react to these in more dynamic ways. Much of what an organization does is simply perform through its established routines, managing the passages that lead from one ‘event’ to the next. These form much of the activities, yet these should never be seen as the end, only the prelude.

We need to fully appreciate the complexities of all the interactions needed to make innovation more dynamic. That’s constantly changing and evolving and like a piece of music it needs this conducting to be thoughtfully manage through the whole piece, the routines and the new understandings and interpretations.

To manage and orchestrate means to lead, to frame, conduct and set the tempo.

The clear intent of any orchestration is the need to extract the underlying value. The person responsible, our conductor, is responsible for managing and searching for new innovation and they need to determine the path. They need to coordinate and integrate all the activities, they need to draw out new learning, new interpretations of the knowledge collectively gathered and reconfigure it all, to deliver something different, fresh and new to the world.

When we begin to want to orchestrate across external innovation networks we not only need to know ourselves extremely well, we also need to know what others can bring and what is missing. Networks and relationships, interactions and knowledge flow needs to be dynamic, they need to be somehow captured and translated, transformed and often reconfigured

Picking up the baton we need to pull together the different fragments

to orchestrate 6Asset orchestration has potentially a real value to appreciate and manage.

There is limited academic research into this but it becomes significantly richer in its importance when you tie it into dynamic capabilities.

Also as we increasing need to understand the value creation in building our networks and relationships, the need for asset orchestration increases so as to build a pathway through gathering knowledge and what you can learn that leads you towards new innovation.

As our organizations become increasingly dependent on specialization the coordination task becomes far more complex and difficult. We constantly need to search, select and configure our resources and capabilities.

Work undertaken to frame this asset orchestration was in different research by Sirmon et al during 2007 and 2008 that focused on the different actions of the manager, or asset orchestrator. They suggest there are three primary stages of structuring, bundling and leveraging resources for the purpose of creating new value for customers and gaining competitive advantages, however temporary in today’s world. It is why this needs to be dynamic, ever evolving, to keep orchestrating your assets continually. These three primary stages can be broken down:

  • Structuring involves acquiring, accumulating and divesting resources to form the organizations resource portfolio.
  • Bundling of integrating resources to form capabilities, that can stabilize or provide incremental improvements to existing capabilities, or that enrich and extend existing current capabilities and thirdly, pioneer, which creates new capabilities.
  • Leveraging involves a sequence of processes to exploit the organizations capabilities to take advantage of specific market opportunities. This includes mobilizing, offering a clear plan or vision of needed capabilities, coordinating for ways to integrate these necessary capabilities and finally, deploying to achieve a resource advantage (or gain) that promotes market opportunities and instils more entrepreneurial strategies to exploit new resource configurations

We are all facing these needs for greater asset synchronization or orchestration.

We need to learn also that innovation needs this growing orchestration, due to this increasing move from firm-centric to network-centric innovation. In my understanding of an orchestrator they needs to manage the tempo, knowing where and when to cue in the different players (learning) and to inject the intensity into the performance.

We are dealing with managing the tempo, interpreting the different passages and movements as interactions become distinct, providing fresh value to build upon.

We need to learn to identify, assimilate and exploit far more than ever, the value of knowing your innovation fitness, your dynamics and the terrain you wish to traverse in new innovation activity becomes even more critical. To create and to extract does clearly need to understand the what, why, where, when and how it needs to go about this.

The orchestrator needs to orchestrate.

Asset OrchestratorTo do this you must orchestrate the capabilities, to purposefully build what is needed to deliver the final result. I have reconfigured my thinking around what will influence the evolution leading from internal innovation capabilities to a whole ‘network’ of these.

It still relies in how you purposefully build and conduct these capabilities and competencies. Orchestration is fundamentally dynamic, full of uncertainties but the need is still to connect the parts to deliver the right result.

Definitely the dynamic view of orchestrating our assets is needed

Finally, orchestration has for me become very important to my ongoing work on the dynamic innovation capabilities for recognizing your innovation fitness landscape and the gaps. These become even more of a challenge when different perspectives and competencies enter the mix, where we urgently need to understand the ‘dynamics of innovation’ even more.

We need to not just know the appropriate resources; we need to work on the skills, processes, routines, organizational structure and disciplines that enable firms to build, employ and orchestrate mostly our intangible assets relevant to satisfying customer needs and which cannot be replicated by competitors.

Assets that deliver the new innovation needed, through attracting in collaboration efforts and integrating these into you own evolving resources and turning into being dynamic in nature.

Successful Innovation needs a common language, context and communicating

The story of Babel

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

People disconnect because they lack what is needed to connect!  Innovation thrives from knowledge and you need to make sure this is allowed to flow. To achieve those essential knowledge connections, you need a shared understanding of innovation, that common sense of purpose as a framework. This will though, always stay a work-in-progress.

You need to begin to build a common language of greater understanding. We need to unite around innovation. Imagine if you work consciously to put knowledge in the hands of people willing to make innovation happen, what the potential might be?

Give people the power of the context for their innovation engagement and that shifts everything to give them a clearer shape and meaning. You are laying out the conditions, criteria and circumstances, giving innovation its foundations.

Connecting the seven parts of the Innovation Work Mat

In this series of articles I will be looking at each of the seven components within the executive innovation work mat to raise questions, to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations around building innovation that sustains and delivers to the strategic need.

This is the fifth post in the series, here I’m exploring the essential need to build a common language, gain growing identity through knowing the context for your innovation activities by communicating these to build a lasting innovation connection and organizational awareness. This flows from the top and cascade down the organization to make the essential connections and alignment.

Giving people space through communicating the common understanding

What would happen if you allow people to openly invent, to brainstorm, to generate initial concepts and prototypes because they understand the strategic innovation framework. One that lays out a vision of meaningful innovation that would be valued as it is more aligned to the strategic direction.

For me, the executive innovation work mat moderates an organizations innovation. It can go much towards reducing the multiple interpretations and personal agenda’s of a variety of initiatives, often described or justified as essential innovation but constantly miss the strategic mark.

The need to cascade innovation

Closing the innovation gap design

If you have in place a clear innovation framework you offer a communicating mechanism to guide innovation activity. The framework can establish a common language, a growing sense of common cause for this to ignite innovations focused activity.

You can cascade this down the organization and actively look for the cascading effect to flow back up in new ideas, a sense of engagement and purpose.

You are looking for everyone involved to understand ‘the bigger picture’, to look towards the communicating platform so they can move their innovation activity back and forth within the structures, processes and systems designed for innovation to align them to the organizational strategic need. Innovation becomes increasingly more connected as it is more integrated in its designs, use of resources and outcomes, to meet the more complex challenges being face in a competitive world.

Engagement can become the behavioral footprint needed for change 

If you give each person a sense of meaning, that explicit and implicit encouragement because this is coming to them in an integrated message- the seven components of the executive innovation work mat – it can shift their mind, it can direct their energies. Engagement can become the catalyst for exciting innovation if there is this sense of trust, continuity and the identification is well-constructed and makes sense.  Organizations do need a commonly shared framework that moderates innovation

There are so many aspects to get right in innovation. These can be ensuring the culture, climate and environment for innovation are working well, it could mean setting up processes, well-designed procedures and structures, it can be providing innovation governance. Each part has a vital part to play in being combined for innovation, so it can function but these are not the core. Our identification with innovation is that core.

Working on innovation needs a deep commitment

Building Innovation

German Late Medieval (c. 1370s) depiction of the construction of the tower.

We need to work hard to communicate that innovation is different than ‘business as usual’. The fact ‘we’ are building something different and we need to build this together.  A counter to existing processes, the commitment need is to overcome practices honed over many years. This needs thinking through in its value and importance.

If the Senior Executive is not totally involved in creating the imperatives needed in innovation then the organization lacks the context. Signalling the kind of innovation and breadth of impact – delivers the vital aspects. Well stated innovation objectives can shift the focus of the organization substantially. It generates collective building capacity.

Incremental to Disruptive requires different engagement points – actions send signals to the organization and having a clear governance provides guidance to risk, principles and the mechanisms to manage these two ‘extremes in innovation and all in-between.

By providing a strategic innovation framework you provide a consistency in purpose, you are aligning innovation to strategic need and by actively engaging across the seven components, sharing their conclusions, these can create the dynamic aspects and sense of growing identity. You need to send a compelling set of messages throughout the organization.

Innovation engagement needs a common language, a clear sense of purpose of innovations context and the mechanisms to communicate and cascade these intents throughout the organization to bring people onto the same page.

Obtaining a ‘given’ flow for innovation

Designing a new strategic innovation framework at the top of organizations helps close the many gaps we see today. There is a flow for improving innovation performance. If we don’t frame the business context how can we compare and contrast?  How do we know what we are missing or what it is meant to be achieving? When we go about seeking out opportunities we need to understand the context these are placed in.

Educating, informing, clarifying constantly simply helps formulate understanding and aids execution. We need to find ways to communicate a common language, a common way to frame the needs expected from innovation.

When we work together we can move mountains

You can eventually achieve a common identity that begins to move ‘mountains’ through collective achievement, one that is both distinctive and unique to your organization. A clear uniqueness that can never be copied, one that allows you to stand out as true distinctive innovators, admired and even envied.

We get closer to achieving a consistent, more vibrant innovation as it becomes more routine and embedded, for it becomes increasingly linked to everyone’s goals, a certain oneness and because of this, it is sustaining. We identify as we understand what our contribution will be, then the leadership has done its primary job, its aligned innovation purpose to the goals, by laying out the parameters to achieve this.

Successful CEO’s achieve organization connection

CEO’s that are seen to be successful achieve connections, what is often called that emotional connection through describing the context, setting the values and vision driven criteria and by often pushing the organization towards ‘impossible goals’. It is amazing how this brings alignment as long as it is consistent, constant in its messages and widely shared and understood and the organization see’s the leadership engaging, visibly seeking and believing in innovation and what it can potentially deliver.

Delivering a coherent and consistent innovation message that resonates

Choice cascade model

The Choice Cascade Integrative Innovation Model

This engagement needs a different honing than most organizations are certainly not capable of delivering, without thinking long and hard about the way they must undertake a more transformational pathway.

I suggest the Choice – Cascade integrated innovation model. One that can connect and deliver a consistent and coherent innovating performance across the organization.

I believe there is an essential gap within the way we set about innovation today. There is needing to be well-articulated and well-communicated innovation strategy that flows both ways in searching for the best solutions that align to the organizational strategic needs.

We need to find more fluid and flexible organizations that respond through searching for innovation consistency. They need to have a ‘flow’ of knowledge, of clarity, of a sense of scale in their learning and dialogues that promotes greater successful innovation outcomes as the sense of on-going mission.

The orchestrator needs to orchestrate.

 We need to align, offer clear vision and purpose and this needs orchestrating from the top of the organization to the bottom. Organizations need an integrated innovation strategic framework that can deliver commonality in understanding, in purpose, in language. Then this needs to be cascaded

To do this you must orchestrate the capabilities, to purposefully build innovation. Orchestration is fundamentally dynamic, full of uncertainties but the need is still to connect the parts. To orchestrate you need to communicate and conduct to make the innovation music

The important “C’s” of innovation

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

For me, the central part of the Executive Innovation Work Mat has been deliberately placed, it conveys the important “C’s”of innovation.

This is made up of the search to build a common language, to put innovation in its appropriate context, to work on communicating and cascading this throughout the organization can spark the distinctive aspects.

The ultimate aim is identification, understanding and then build up the capability, capacity and competencies required to deliver on the integrated approach taken. This is led from the top through this work mat approach and fully cascaded throughout the organization to align and bring innovation to life for all involved.

Seeking common cause through innovation

Although it is simple to state, creating a common language for innovation is very hard, demanding work. To begin to create it, then to gain a broader identification with its make-up and then to build upon it requires some dedicated time and effort, but above all, it needs recognition of its importance to obtaining a sustaining innovation entity.

Yet there is incredible sustaining value in achieving a common language. In the work that Jeffrey Phillips and I have been undertaking we see the Executive Innovation Work Mat  and its seven connected parts we really saw language, context and communications, as central to any innovation initiatives to work towards.

The Executive Innovation Work Mat

Languages unites us or divides us

Language can have the power to unite us or potentially divide us. Developing a language to unite us in our innovation efforts goes some way to reduce disagreements and egos, that can block success. To create an environment for innovation, to offer within a set of governance, process and functional structures, to build a culture responsive, we need this common cause, this central innovation language, our clear unifying context.

So much of innovation is piecing together many fragmented pieces, strands of knowledge that can be unstructured, can be very ambiguous, yet requires sound judgement. Innovation builds on shared experience and the quality of its interaction points. The more we learn to collaborate, the more we begin to share experiences, the more we achieve a growing common language. We need to bring together increasingly the parts that growing specialisation, our limited grasp of all the complexities that can influence a decision. We need to constantly reconcile incoming information with our own language of understanding, so we need to strive towards improving the common parts surely?

We all have different meaning and interpretations.

Each organization has specifics in meaning that can often end up in results that break down and so deliver results totally different from their original intent.  We think we communicate well but those that receive this often apply different interpretations that confirm their personal views, they often apply subtle nuances and variations, and it is within these different readings we can suffer costly errors, extensive delays and wrong end results in final product or service delivery. We suffer significant inefficiencies because we don’t pay enough attention to ensuring the correct meaning is well understood, we simply believe our way of thinking is the only way it is conveyed to be understood, and as we all know, this is often far from the reality.

We need to seek explicit language and context to allow innovation to do its final job, of delivering a valuable new contribution that builds on the existing and meets new market and customers’ needs or the jobs-to-be-done.  Innovation becomes highly constrained if we fail to find that common language, that common purpose, the understand of the right context and ended up providing something that was not as good as it could have been or completely off track on the original insight . It somehow got lost in translation. Translation is one of those keys that can unlock innovation and partly why the work mat is constructed the way it is.

Our reasoning for specifically highlighting common language and context

The reason we called the Work Mat, the Executive innovation Work Mat was that innovation suffers when it does not have total, enthusiastic support and senior leaders real involvement. The leaders of organizations have the ability to drive innovation across and down the organization, they can build the connections so activities, teams and individuals can identify and gain in their innovation confidence. Today, many leaders fail to understand their vital part in this process. We want to change that.

It is really only at the top you can provide the best framework and design for stronger facilitation, understanding and negotiations to occur around the innovation activity. In organizations innovation must increasingly become totally aligned to the strategic goals. If you want to achieve this, executive and organizational engagement to deliver on this strategic intent needs an overarching framework.

The outcome we believe comes significantly through the work mat. It can be cascaded down the organization once the top team has worked through its seven essential parts and are satisfied that they do provide a compelling story on innovation. Then equally it can come back up the organization, so it allows for the further identification and a greater ‘dynamic’ engagement of its connected parts, as the framework continues to achieve this executive and organizational alignment, through its constant encouragement and support, as its central tenet.

Common language is a constant dialogue and exploration

Any innovation common language needs working upon. It needs to be current, relevant, accurate and highly visible throughout the entire organization. It also needs to be allowed to grow and flourish. A common language equally allows for a knowledge repository to potentially prosper. I refer you to my previous thoughts on where absorptive capacity fits within this, in its steps of acquiring, assimilating, transforming and exploiting but this needs a clear structure and commonality to it, to gain its lasting benefit.

In any common language we need to master the knowledge to exploit it and extract what it can offer. We need to appreciate always its terms, its definitions (and limitations) and the related performance values to improve our performance and achieve others understanding of our meaning. The more we practice and move towards a common understanding of innovation, we are actually moving towards clarifying and reconciling, as best we can, within the constraints of what common language or context offers. We give innovation a greater chance to succeed. A common language enables greater transparency, clarity in accountability through its definitions; we achieve greater collaborative dialogues and meet more concurrence than without this move towards a common understanding.

Why should we have a common language for innovation?

I was reading an article from Raj Kumar, a founding director at AIM Knowledge Management Systems, based in India on one of his hack blogs within MIX. Some of his points are specifically valuable and I can see apply here in discussing common languages and seeking common cause and “played back” in my way.

Knowledge more than ever plays its part

In a McKinsey study they argue we need more knowledge workers more than ever. We are all increasingly dealing with increased ambiguity and having to apply increasing levels of judgement and draw even more on our experiences far more. To meet this we need increasing knowledge interactions. According to one study 70 per cent of all US jobs created since 1998 require judgement and experience and these now make up over 40 per cent of the total labour market in the United States.

I would support this knowledge need. The quality of the required interactions needs to reduce our own often fixed ‘mindset’ and understanding and be open to exchange and understanding. A common language within innovation can, and does, cut out potential misunderstandings and improve process, assumptions. We can move quicker and be ready to explore generalizations, for finding within these a greater range of more specific opportunities. We can achieve this by having some greater confidence and trust in how we all share and see ‘things’ that draws often the disparate parts together.

Delaying decisions can help

Also although this can be open to interpretation we often do need to delay decisions until the latest possible time to improve the chances of this being right. Does that fly in the face of innovation? No, if you are seeking greater understanding, not for the sake of it but for its value to improve, adapt and increase the potential of the innovation activity. The more you are informed, the better chances of a good decision that leads to a better result. We are being increasingly asked to make better and bigger judgement calls and this becomes one of the reasons you need a clear innovation organizing framework, through the executive innovation work mat  (link to white paper) that encourages, supports and guides your decisions.

Collaboration platforms need a soul or DNA to be valuable

Kumar also brings out an important point that struck me hard. We constantly seek out improved collaboration tools, we push people to self-organize to drive interactions and populate the collaborative platform but he argues this is a form of organization blindness. The tools we provide are in his words, “akin to sign language”, they do not (yet) bring in the loops of learning, the rich DNA to foster meaningful collaboration as the (present) format ignores much of the conduct and make up to get to a certain point.

He suggests meaningful collaborations are made up of purpose, goals, vocabulary, their assembly, the focus, the product, parsing (the context), the audience and finally the driving energy. We need to capture all of these within any common language for innovation so we have its context, goals and engagement clear. Kumar believes IT is getting closer to aid this.

His compelling energy framework has interesting potential

I like his “compelling energy” framework, made up of compelling adoption, pursuit of truth, communities involved, contemplation time lines, teamwork and trust, commitment, innovation, good governance and seeking a culture of excellence. I’ll leave you to read an extensive discussion on this compelling “hack” of Kumar’s.

He defines within this framework part on innovation and suggests you set up innovation by need definition, thought-evolution and breaking of moulds – that does sound ‘compelling’ to explore more and a basis for a new mind change to move us from incremental to greater innovation advancement and breakthroughs. I’m thinking over this.

A bedrock for sustaining innovation is a common intent, language and context

Common language is the bedrock for how we set about innovation. It cannot be silo driven, unless you want stilted results with incremental innovation as likely, the best you can achieve most of the time within this ‘constraint’. How we go about our communications, what and who you can connect with and your level of innovation engagement, do matter significantly. It is the ability to find common identity, a real unifying sense of purpose that sends positive signals to all involved and those interested parties, often external to your ‘inner’ innovation process, to engage fully.

A common purpose for innovation, set within clear guidelines and a framework, as we have proposed through the executive innovation work mat, gives innovation that clear ‘voice’. It allows us all to gather around a consistent language of innovation as it places more on the context of why, where and how you want to manage innovation, and can conduct its different parts in a certain ‘fluidness’ that gives shape and meaning to innovation and all its critical inter-connected parts that make up the Work Mat.

Please note: All the executive innovation work mat hyper-links are pointed to different aspects or papers that might have value in exploring this area further.

Linking innovation context to the process

Time passes extremely quickly, particularly when you enjoy yourself, or so it seems for me. I was surprised, going through some of my past blogs, the time between related entries on the need for having in place a sustaining competitive advantage framework on innovation, has been longer than they it should have been. This blog is the third entry on this subject.

Always, always and always do I see organizations struggle to align themselves for their innovation activity, why is this? Either alignment of innovation into the strategy they are (assumedly) following or shaping innovation into the context of where and how innovation can fit.

I’ve written on this often enough actually, and argued the need for building a more sustaining innovation framework.  I have been working for some time within one of my formulas on this with its given framework of II + EE + MLC + OC + RNE build towards = SCA. I somehow suspect you need nudging on what this means

Required past reading possibly needed here.

Without duplicating more than necessary you need to go back and read two previous blogs on this

The first was written in August 2010 and entitled “A formula for Sustaining Competitive Advantage through Innovation”. The link is here:

The second was written in June 2011 and entitled “Sustaining is Pivotal to Making Innovation Progress”. The link is here:

Both offer a helpful introduction to the framework and formula.

The next part of the equation

This blog ‘advances’ this framework by attempting to link the context of innovation into a process to think through. I say attempting because we need to accept each building process is different, and unique to the organization and the circumstances of what they want innovation to achieve, besides the standard reply “growth and profit”. Doesn’t this always sounds like the famous question asked at beauty pageants: “So what’s the most important issue for you?” asks the compare with the reply “world peace”. Oh, I wish it was so simple.

Those leaders that talk of “growth and profit” from innovation seem to reduce it to just a sound bite, I just wish it was so simple. I do wish the majority of our business leaders would get ‘into’ innovation understanding a lot more. Innovation breaks down always outside the CEO’s executive door and it really does need them to step outside and get more fully involved as it is a major area to succeed at if a longer tenure is in their minds.

Still, I digress. Here I outline how I see a typical linking through of a context to innovation in a ‘flow through’ process that is shaped along the II + EE + MLC + OC + RNE build towards = SCA, framework.

Innovation Alignment, Context & Process

Innovation Alignment to the Corporate Strategy does need working through. It needs linking to business goals and strategy, to the role innovation plays within this, the type of innovation portfolio you wish to design and work upon and the delivery and adoption needed so the organization ‘aligns’ itself. You need a thinking-through process to align context into activity.

This takes time, it needs sustaining effort but it needs leadership to understand the critical connecting parts to do this. It needs a defining framework that I see as separate to what I’m offering here. On my present rate of outlining this it does seems sometime next year for that – not good news for those interested.

Watch this space

Actually let me share a little secret between us,  I’m working on a more radical, visually appealing and exciting way to approach this now but within a joint collaboration around this critical issue. So, who knows this might be discussed earlier than my past track record of once a year to move from one aspect to another. It needs to be and I’m sure my collaborating partner on this will be pushing me a lot harder going forward.