In my work investigating different aspects of innovation activity one thought tends to dominate my thinking: “How do we achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of innovation within our capabilities to be more successful?”
I’ve already written in previous blogs about the need of “constantly checking for the pulse of innovation” ( http://bit.ly/c3G0Ta) and suggesting the way to “open up your thinking to dynamic capabilities for innovation success” ( http://bit.ly/bxTeYO).
I’d like to take this one step further in this blog and outline my thinking on innovation fitness landscapes and why they are essential to understand .
Each organization needs to know its Innovation Fitness Landscape- why
There is a pressing need for a firm is to consistently build and reconfigure internal and external competencies and capabilities to address rapidly changing environments. It is the mastering of this ability to achieve new, more innovative forms in rapid changing market conditions that will enable certain organizations to emerge as the winners of the innovation race.
This view requires a more ‘dynamic’ set of capabilities. Often the question becomes one of “which are the critical ones to focus upon to improve the chance of greater success?
Knowing your fitness landscape does provide a good understanding of your existing position and set of capabilities and can ‘point’ you towards the ones that you need to have to move towards to have in place to improve your innovation capacity and achieve closer to your goals.
Survival of the fittest dominates
Each organization has limited resources, it is to know where to focus your limited resources to maximise your abilities to deliver better innovation. The key is to map out those current innovation capabilities to the tasks (and aspirations) at hand and identify the opportunity spaces and gaps that need to be filled to match aspiration with abilities, so as to deliver against the stated strategic need. It does seem Darwin seemingly raises his head in much of what we do to simply keep up and adapt. So we do need to understand innovation in more of its entirety not only to survive but to thrive.
So what are Innovation Fitness Landscapes?
“The greater the fitness to innovate will equate to more value creation potential.”
I believe we do need to provide a solution to this understanding the innovation challenge by constructing a more comprehensive framework. Part of my present work is to find a working model to achieve this, I’m getting close.
It is this critical need of any business organization or country for wealth creation through (new) growth and successful innovation lies in understanding the path to achieving this. But what are the factors, the enablers to support this? It is by identifying the more dynamic capabilities and then plotting these to understand your existing ‘fitness’. There is still today far too much of a ‘piecemeal’ approach in evaluating the inter-related dynamics needed for innovation still going on, both at Government and Organizational level. We need to see this differently, to tackle it in a more comprehensive manner.
If you can imagine that you are looking out over a range of mountains and valleys and you need to determine your journey to get from one point to another as your goal. You need to understand your fitness and in this case your innovation fitness of what is needed to achieve your goals with the resources you have available or understanding what will bridge those gaps and transverse the challenges you face. Let me explain this a little more.
Let’s mix the theory of fitness landscapes with your innovation objectives
- By firstly mapping out your innovation capabilities to the task at hand enables you to understand and relate to what is needed- we call that the context for innovation. Innovation Fitness Landscapes helps in this task by identifying the opportunity spaces on where you need to focus your efforts‐ and apply the appropriate resources to navigate the terrain. The greater understanding of the ‘fitness points needed’ can transform your innovation landscape potential, or in business parlance, achieve your goal.
- Achieving this fitness accelerates your opportunities into final tangible outcomes. Here is a little bit of the theory: you look for those critical factors that will give higher value potential or ‘peaks’ that are more valuable to your needs. The more ‘rugged’ the landscape, the tougher the innovation challenge, can also determine the greater fitness for the rate of innovation. The height of the peaks in these landscapes, the greater value placed upon them, illustrates how intense the innovation challenge is, and the number of critical peaks shows how diverse its potentially is to provide the appropriate resources.
- The ability to identifying the emerging patterns provides the need to act and invest, making adaptive even exploratory walks to provide the appropriate resources needed so as to move you to the higher fitness points where innovation viability is enhanced and needed to be so as to resolve the challenges faced. You need to experiment, to take these exploratory ‘walk’s to realize the potential and learn how to scale accordingly.
- Greater fitness equates to more value creation potential. The ability to inter‐couple landscape entities, to constantly combine the different capabilities in different often unique ways and exploit individual interactions alters your dynamics to innovate and does improve repeatable cycle times from this constant recreation potential.
- The key is to know what these capability points are- by dynamic linking those that are important and ignoring those that are not.
- By learning from these experiments or adaptive walks you can quickly operationalize routines that can be quickly absorbed across the organization and so reduce uncertainties and strengthen the capabilities.
- The ability to create ‘natural tensions’ from this fitness learning triggers the need to further explore and search out different combinations, this adds even further to your dynamics of innovation understanding.
- Clear distinctive capabilities emerge; these are your dynamic points for innovation.
Act effectively amid uncertainty
There is a consistent need to keep looking around us; on what is going on, what has happened in the past, what is alongside us, what might be ahead and the people and resources we have available. This is taught to anyone who wants to be well equipped in any mountainous area. We need to be prepared as best we can in business and be ready to anticipate different scenarios and predictions- to be ready to be more adaptive and agile. Innovation requires that.
It is knowing this so called innovation terrain, understanding the opportunities or possibilities around us along with appreciating the time pressures, positions both internally and externally in the market that provide us much of the context of why we need to innovate in a certain way. Knowing the intensity of your innovation challenge gives you a better appreciation of what is needed to resolve these challenges- your innovation fitness.
In our understanding of the often ‘diverse’ set of challenges you have to overcome and knowing what is available to you and what you need to find to bridge any gaps becomes essential. The obtaining of insights for innovation enables you to relocate or locate the resources that are capable to be combined to traverse the landscape (or challenge) and innovate better.
Innovation is complex but can be modelled.
Innovation is complex, it is the intricate and often multiple intertwined interactions and relationships that lead to innovation. The greater the connectivity and interdependence that spreads across the organization and externally in our more open innovation initatives does effects the actions, decisions and behaviours throughout the whole innovation ecosystem. We often talk about the cultural and environment needed to innovate. Knowing the inter-coupling points mapped out in an innovation fitness landscape, depicting the richness of individual interactions and combinations can alter the dynamics and your thinking of where you need to place your scarce resources to innovate better and in more sustainable ways.
Knowing what is dynamic, those critical determinants within your innovation capabilities do lead you to achieve new and innovative forms of competitive advantage. I feel it is worth understanding your present fitness levels and knowing what is required to get you to become a more ‘fit’ for the purpose to innovate on a consistent, repeatable basis. I feel it is worth knowing, don’t you?