Approaching innovation through fitness dynamics needs a structured approach.

This post follows on from my recent one of “the Innovation Journeyman.”  We do have a real journey still to travel to understand the dynamics within innovation. Here, I want to lay out a possible path that might advance us towards achieving this. This includes a fairly ‘intensive’ nine step approach outlined below.

The innovation fitness dynamics

The innovation fitness dynamics

What we do need to do is constantly evolve our innovation capabilities to perform in more dynamic and flexible ways. We need to acquire that consistent aim of achieving a more adaptable and adjusting approach to innovation in all its parts. We need to meet the changing circumstances and challenges  we are all facing to regain the real growth needed from our economies and organizations, making what we do at the same time, more sustainable. Delivering better innovation outcomes is central to this task.

Are we in a more Darwinian world perhaps?

I’d suggest that today innovation is caught up in the survival race, where the bolder ones are more innovation fit. We need many more organizations to get out of this survival trap and exploiting innovation in bolder ways.

So much of what we do is ‘static’ work, activities that are simply repeating what we have done time and again and gaining us little new knowledge. These activities on their own keeps us happily ‘treading water’ and does the job of locking us comfortably into the efficient and effectiveness clan mindset that most business organizations like to be constantly working in.

The harsh reality is this is becoming a very crowded, increasing uncomfortable place to be, as we reduce our capabilities to take risk, too invest, to take those decisions that create more radical innovation. The more we play ‘safe’ the more we run the risk of being disrupted. We are failing to leverage much of the liberating power within innovation. Is our business world today is it so predictable?  No, it is well and truly ‘dynamic’ and evolving.

There is an awful lot of creative destruction going on and I’ve also written previously about the Innovation Era: Creative Destruction or Destructive Creation where the replacement rate is constantly speeding up, we are facing more uncertainly and incoherence than ever.

We need to place the emphasis back on the “creative” innovation part and not the ‘destructive’ nature we have been moving towards recently. To achieve this we need to understand innovation far better than we currently do. This is partly where my exploring the dynamics of innovation through fitness landscapes comes in.

Knowing your innovation ‘stock’ and  ‘capital’ potential

We need to know our ‘innovation stock’, a large part of our wealth generating capital and where it can be best put to use. We are valuing the knowledge perspective far more and with this we are increasingly recognizing the importance of the intellectual capital that makes up the organization.

We certainly need to re-think many of the old world value delivery systems to assess organizations and make much more of a concerted effort to make innovation that renders different, unique value outcomes, that keep pushing the boundaries of strategic advantage within any business.

We need to ‘master’ our understanding of the skills, processes, routines, organizational structure and disciplines that enable firms to build, employ and orchestrate innovation as this is increasingly needed for participating in more complex open collaboration efforts. To achieve this, we first need to know ourselves and our capability to innovate, both the strengths and weaknesses.

So I’ve been busy mapping out a pathway to Innovation Fitness

Knowing your innovation fitness capabilities does provide a good understanding of your existing position and can, through a structured approach and programme, ‘point’ you towards the ones that you need to have that put you into that place of leveraging unique strengths, that clearly improve your innovation capability. These are the ones that are far more valuable and potentially dynamic.

The issue is today, do we know what are the critical capabilities to focus upon to improve the chances of greater innovation success? Each organization has limited resources to offer and it is becoming increasingly important to know where and with what these resources to maximise the capability to deliver a better set of innovation outcomes.

So within my own innovation ‘walkabout’ I made a significant step forward.

Sometime ago in one of my research phases, exploring around this subject, I came across a book written by Kim Warren on “Competitive Strategic Dynamics.”  Although I struggled on much within the content of the book, I did find the chapter headers as a useful ‘engagement approach’ for what I wanted to describe in my approach to identifying and working through the dynamics of innovation.

So after some adjustments and reworking of the activities within my ‘engagement approach,’  I came to nine steps within this process. These might change as I progress and learn but do lay out a process towards explaining, engaging and exploring how an organization can achieve an innovation fitness.

Included is a working through of the methodology to navigate and focus upon the appropriate capability points needed within each specific organization. This step process I believe gets you to the point of understanding what innovation capabilities  are a better ‘fit’ for purpose, to deliver on your innovation needs on a consistent, repeatable and evolving basis.

The Nine Steps needed for developing an understanding of your innovation capabilities to make them more dynamic.

1. Getting Started – Understanding the Needs & Imperatives of Innovation Fitness

  • Why we must travel this critical path for Innovation.
  • The meaning of dynamic capabilities and innovation fitness landscapes
  • Merging  the theory with practical reality to produce new outcomes and positive results.
  • Focusing on resources and performance – why is this important
  • The problem is knowing what we have and what we really need

2. The Fuel of Innovation Performance – the dynamics of innovation

  • A sharper, clearer focus on innovation resources to meet strategic need
  • What is known about resources to sustain, enhance performance
  • Knowing and aligning  your strategic criteria – for sound innovation approaches
  • Getting innovation within the right context of your business
  • Moving your resources in the right direction

3. Getting even more specific – quantification and qualification

  • Recognizing the building of scale, change rates and dynamics that happen over time and why we need to constantly build our innovation capabilities.
  • Developing the resources to meet the need – structured, focused, clarified by bringing out the necessary discussion.
  • An illustrative scenario for a directional innovation fitness landscape map
  • Recognizing resources can come beyond the firm and bringing these in successfully. Managing within a more open environment.
  • Achieving  mutual dependencies to support; recognizing the hindering ones
  • Being aware of  the impact of different scenarios in the management of innovation

4. Building the Innovation Fitness Machine – reinforcing feedback, identifying needs

  • Recognizing the current status, spotting emerging patterns, seeing spaces and gaps and identifying solutions.
  • Beginning the ‘adaptive walk’ to get to higher fitness points needed to compete.
  • Clarifying the complementary resources, looking to embed new routines quickly and set up follow through approaches.
  • Introducing natural tensions into the system to trigger ‘step change’
  • Resource dependence climate, culture, diversity, intensity and uniqueness
  • Reinforcing feedback – watching for dangers, managing the machine capacity, removing the brakes selectively
  • Shifting your resources need not deplete or force other people to compete for them – working through the tensions within teams and silos.
  • Matching resource dynamics with the innovation value chain & life cycle stages
  • Simulation modelling the ‘what ifs’ and ‘why’

5. The Strategic Architecture – designing the system to perform as needed

  • The step process for designing and executing the architecture design
  • Diagnosing performance challenges and road blocks – resolving, moving on
  • Lining up the solutions is not a linear process and needs careful management
  • Addressing the effects of intangibles in the Strategic Architecture.

6. The Hard Face of Soft(er) factors – the hidden power of intangible resources

  • Clarifying the impact of the intangibles and recognizing time, climate and conditions are significant contributors to innovation activities.
  • The different rivalry types: internal and external, inter department, inter projects and working through resolutions to these.
  • Reflecting feelings and expectations, addressing all the different needs
  • Measuring the tougher parts of intellectual capital
  • The real value of your intangible resources
  • Recognizing the value of hidden innovation and spotting its occurrence

7. Entering into Competitive Battle – the Dynamics of Rivalry, the Uniqueness of You

  • Recognizing, developing, capturing, transforming, avoiding and out – manoeuvring
  • Your point of choosing what, where, how and when to compete.
  • Building capabilities that are unique to you and hard to replicate
  • Building sustainability into the innovation equation as ongoing
  • Extending the turf, exploiting the situation, pushing beyond, seeking partners.

8. Building and Testing Capabilities to Perform

  • Measuring capabilities through different fitness levels and scale.
  • Learning to build capabilities as ‘ongoing’ and evolving for changing needs
  • Re-Structuring the process for dealing with the dynamics of change
  • Knowing the points of impact on performance to enable recognition and reality
  • Managing innovation performance progressively across the spectrum of business need through testing and extending capability learning.
  • Building from personal to team to organizational learning in measured steps
  • Recognizing the role of leadership, achieving strategic alignment and working on broadening out innovation competence at different organizational levels.

9. Keeping the innovation fitness wheels turning, keeping your eyes on the road

  • Resolution of conflicting goals, control and structure
  • Dissecting conflicting positions, resolving impasse
  • Knowing the limits of human engagement
  • Goals, controls and measurements can dominate and strangle
  • Keeping the measurements simple and clear
  • Managing innovation as a critical strategic resource
  • Merging the results into a greater alignment to Strategy and Approaches

The end result is looking to generate your fitness landscape

As you can see this is applying a very comprehensive approach, a fairly ‘intensive’ one. The parts within the structure might change, depending on circumstances and experiences. It is one that is more than likely an organizational wide applicable one. This might alter after some clear piloting, learning and experimentation.  Building innovation capabilities takes time; they are complex, highly structured and multi-dimensional. Any structured approach to tackling innovation takes time and considerable commitment.

Any learning involves sensing, seizing and then transforming. This is for me, still a work-in-progress, and what I outline here is not the ‘done’ deal but more a “beta” framework approach. What we do need to do certainly is to push innovation beyond the existing as innovation is today, as it is falling to live up to its promise. Knowing the critical dependencies for establishing a sustaining, successful innovation performance is somewhere we should strive towards in its understanding. I’m certainly moving down a decent pathway here I feel.

Each organization does needs to know its innovation fitness to thrive in the future

We are searching for what makes up the present system and what needs to be part of the future to create a ‘best’ innovation capability environment that is sustaining into the longer-term. Those that can be continually ‘orchestrated’ and constantly adapted to meet the strategic need.

We are striving towards a true ‘innovation coherency premium’ in design, knowing what makes up your core dynamic components. The outcomes are to know where to invest, what to dampen down and what aspects can evolve naturally and be ‘taken along’ as you focus upon the ones that are more dynamic and relevant to your innovation needs.

No journey is without pitfalls.

Finding the dynamic capabilities of innovation that ‘fit’ with the strategic needs of each organization will be different based on their own respective challenges and position. We need to stop simply copying others and create our own ‘dynamics’ to strengthen our own unique advantage points for sustaining our future. Do you want to become innovation fit?

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6 thoughts on “Approaching innovation through fitness dynamics needs a structured approach.

  1. Hi Paul
    As usual, very well thought out post. I sometimes wonder the time it takes you to figure out and then write your excellent subject. It took me almost a day to write and post an article in my blog about lessons Nokia has taught hitting the wall of future.

    As you say in you Bio, I guess you simply love researching innovation. Somewhat theoretical for my taste, but all your posts are useful to innovate with more questions and approaches in mind.

    Thanks.
    Alberto

    Like

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