Questions raised on a collaborative innovation framework

Yesterday, 5th May, there was an interesting exchange on #innochat relating to collaborating frameworks for innovation. We have a wiki on this if you care to take a look so you get the context and the suggested framework we are proposing.

#Innochat is a lively, informative and inspiring one-hour(ish) discussion on Thursdays at noon (Eastern US time). Usually the best way to follow along is to head over to TweetChat – sign in with your Twitter credentials and follow along and participate. Take a look at and join in.

Jeffrey Philips @ovoinnovation and myself @paul4innovating have been suggesting that we need to organize more around a common approach to innovation and having recently published this we decided to put this forward within this discussion hour to learn more from many established innovation thinkers. The fact that twitter decided to go ‘whaling’, stalling and generally misbehaving to create some bottleneck in exchanges, it did seem to generate a lot of ‘chat’ and a great diversity of opinion.

The first question was: “Is innovation a cottage industry? If so, is that because of a lack of a standard approach” warmed everybody up that was for sure. The definition supplied by @ovoinnovation was “small players, different approaches that are not scalable, with no shared solutions”.

There were plenty of thoughts on this, with a summary of some of the more interesting ones shown here:

  • “Too much competition to have one model”
  • “Companies should have their own frameworks as companies would be similar in their approach”
  • “Diverse activities without common threads or themes”
  • “Does innovation adhere to common frameworks?”
  • “Cottage industry sounds like lots of hand weavers”
  • “Hand weavers being replaced by factories”
  • “Cottage implies less professional”
  • “There is lots of adopting and applying (to innovation)”
  • Cottage maybe, not all take on ongoing formalized approach to innovation”
  • “Innovation contains artisans”
  • “There is lots of adopting and applying”
  • “Common starting point but (perhaps) different ending points”
  • “Main reason why Innovation is so important to services companies is because it’s easy to commoditise, and easier still to copy”
  • “Custom-tailored frameworks are needed”
  • “We still don’t have a common language”
  • “Not even a common language for strategic plans”

For me coming out of this ‘opening’ exchange was some real concerns.

My thinking that came out of this was “protect the known’s, reject the unknowns”. It struck me what an awful lot of reinventing of the wheel or in this case the innovation process, still does seemingly takes place. Is this either productive or value-adding for the clients who are looking for sound advice? It suites many providing advice to do this, as you come back to one of the very salient points made yesterday: “easy to commoditize, and easier still to copy”, so you offer a custom-tailored evaluation process and provide a variant, wrap it in some mystery to offer, in all truth a custom-designed solution.  So why not go with one from the very beginning to frame discussions, to establish a common framework and then explore options to advance on this? Instead it seems ‘we’ move on, look for the next one, repeating what is already actually established as common. I think we should move on from this and advance by providing a common, generally accepted innovation framework, as the starting point.

Yes, from what I read, nothing convinced me that we are NOT still in a cottage industry for innovation and surely that has to change?

Frameworks or Standards

Another part of the discussion was around frameworks or standards.

The conclusion was we lacked a framework and it is problematic. Adopting standards remain to be seen, as this can have many constraining factors. Lots of exchanges were around the use of the word ‘framework’ and there seemed to be a consensus of the better use of ‘guidelines’ would be helpful. Well at least it is right perhaps at the start of anything to suggest guidelines maybe. The other observation was “structures must be extremely loose, any framework very light”

Did the discussion advance the topic?

From my perspective it did. Within one hour a fast and furious exchange the issue of lacking a common innovation framework was raised as a real constraining issue, it got a number of people certainly interested to become more involved. So I’m hopeful as we push the argument about having a more organising framework or guidelines for innovation we might achieve the level of advancement we do require within innovation thinking.

One tweet “Innovation within parameters” summed it up nicely. Some advancement would help by framing innovation more on a common platform or around a set of guidelines. We certainly gathered more involvement and interest within the innovation community and will continue to argue for the establishment of some common approach.

Frameworks provide confidence, reliability and comparability, by working from something common surely? All we have to do is find a common starting point and that seems that it is not going to be easy, by all accounts of the exchanges that took place yesterday. Still we will push on, as the advantages certainly outweigh the concerns of protecting the ‘knowns’ and ‘easy to copy’ and differentation can be found and better demonstrated further down the innovation value chain.

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