Building Differentiating Capabilities for Innovation

pulling-the-levers-on-all-the-innovation-variablesWe so often get caught up in the building of our capabilities. In some ways, I keep attempting to “peel the innovation onion” in explaining the need to focus on building the capabilities in different ways but to be honest, it needs these various approaches to an ever-changing environment.

A different intensity of innovation onion perhaps? Why, well we have the business of today, the emerging business of tomorrow and the future business that will provide a radically different set of capability building needs?

The struggle to date is that innovation remains hard to manage well; we strive to systematize it and then attempt to replicate any success we then have, so as to achieve more, yet more often than not. we do not take into account all the variables that came together for that particular winning outcome. Often this does not work on a repetitive basis as the variables that make up innovation can be different for each innovation event or activity but we can learn under a growing ‘range of’ differentiating capabilities.

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Taking advantage of emergence for discovery

emergence-and-discoverySo this week my research was moving around issues of complexity within innovation and I came across a great paper, written by Deborah Dougherty “Organizing for innovation in complex innovation systems”

Although she is addressing within this paper the bigger more complex social and economic challenges we are facing in healthcare, alternative energy, water scarcity, climate management, poverty and economic revitalization, she is attempting to reframe these into problem resolutions from breaking down discovery into four distinct channels. I liked this thinking.

The new innovating world we face in the 21st Century

Her opening insight is in the twenty-first century we are all requiring more reliance on social technologies that are designed to allow the different technologies to emerge and be allowed to integrate, due to the diversity and diffusion of knowledge. This is different from past practices found within organizations. Dr Dougherty points out much of what takes place today is still based on nineteenth-century practices where organizations were designed to stabilize, scale up and optimize, mostly internally, the scientific and technological knowledge into large working configurations. Continue reading

Building the Core Competencies for Innovation

Building capabilities 4For my final post of the year, I went back to some of my thinking through, those around the building blocks needed in developing the core competencies for innovation that we need to have in place for realizing its true potential.

For me, the bedrock of innovation is built upon competencies, capabilities, and capacities and all these involve people as well as technology. They go hand in hand in our connected world.

Building these is the core of my own innovation offering in consulting, in advising, mentoring and coaching. My work constantly “maps” back to this essential three “C” of competencies, capabilities, and capacities.

Let me offer some thoughts that build around a framework I work through.

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So how do you manage exploiting and exploring for Innovation?

Innovation Exploit and Explore to TransformSo how do businesses organise their structures to be able to simultaneously manage the needs to exploit and explore innovation?

In this post I wanted to explain my thinking through on this ability to be ‘ambidextrous’, knowing the difference of when to exploit and when to explore as essential to leveraging innovation, in all its forms and watching out for some of the traps in not managing this well.

Managing this, in all honesty, though, is hard to get the balance right but highly valuable if you do achieve it, it can transform the business. Many of our organisations struggle to manage both successfully as they tend to focus more on separation mostly in organisational structures alone as their attempt to become ambidextrous. It is far more than ‘just’ this.  Get the balance right across the organisation’s design and in its leadership management, it becomes a very powerful mechanism for accelerating performances by delivering significantly new innovation and equally sustaining and leveraging the core business you have today.

Recently I contributed a blog post over on the Hype Innovation Blog ” Balancing Exploitation & Exploration for Changing Performance” that opens up the subject but then extensively dives into three examples of Apple, GE and Google that are working in highly ambidextrous ways, pursuing exploiting and exploring in their own unique ways.

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Dealing with the innovation legacy lying within your business.

Dealing with LegacyI know the feeling, there has been such a considerable investment that has gone into previous innovation processes to get them established but much of this is actually out of date, it has become today a real ‘legacy’ issue but there is, of course, a real reluctance to challenge it. Well you should!

Often this reluctance to dispose of these old systems, processes and inadequate frameworks is holding innovation back.

I would argue that perhaps many of our current innovation practices are ‘frozen’ in past times and they significantly slow us down, in a world that is becoming one built increasing on speed, flexibility and adaptability.

We lose precious time as we should be forward looking. constantly learning and experimenting with new concepts and approaches to innovation and what and where these can bring in new growth, sustainability and value to our organisations.

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Striving for the innovation balance: between exploring and exploiting.

Exploit and ExploreWe never seem capable of adapting as well as we should do. Adapting always seems a work-in-progress, or it is often something where we are simply making little or no progress!

We often stay ‘stuck’ in the way we do ‘things’ around here, never seemingly able to break out into something new or different.

To adapt we need to open ourselves up to learning and adjusting our organizational ‘form’ in new ways.

In business there should be a constant battle to reconfigure the assets and extend the existing capabilities. Yet often these stay ‘static’ not learning or improving.  In our innovation activities there is an even greater pressing need to build into our thinking the ability to find more dynamic capabilities. It is a constant innovator’s dilemma to think through and get right.

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Building the new dynamics into our capacity to innovate

Exploit and ExploreDo we know what are the dependencies and requirements for building and sustaining your organizations innovation success? How do you sustain innovation, is it more through the structuring of everyday work, by creating a particular set of social rules and resources that foster specific routines? Or something different?

We work really hard at maintaining these re-occurring processes, never willing to extend and push them in different and new ways. We have actually become very static in our approaches and learning, we are not learning anew. We often simply end up with incremental innovation that might just ‘nudge’ the growth needle but does little more than sustain us in the present and can be ‘contained’ in a tidy process that makes many, including the ‘bean counters,’ very happy until someone changes the game.

Then we need to think differently but this is usually far too late.. As demand is more volatile today we need to experiment, explore, learn and adjust. What becomes more important is the ‘work to be done, and how we go about tackling this and not the work done’ where we often simply ‘default too. Surprisingly Adam Smith identified this important difference in work way back in 1776.

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