Are we playing snakes and ladders with innovation?

Snakes and Ladders 1Have you ever played snakes and ladders? Called chutes and ladders in the US. A number of “ladders” and “snakes” are pictured on the board, each connecting two specific board squares.

The object of the game is to navigate one’s game piece, according to dice rolls, from the start (bottom square) to the finish (top square), helped or hindered by ladders and snakes respectively.

Originally from India the game is a simple race contest based on sheer luck and I am beginning to wonder if we are playing a new version of this with innovation? This is called “bust or boom” or “success or failure” or even “maybe or maybe not,” or even “will we, won’t we.” It just all depends on our luck in rolling the dice, a serendipity with a darker twist that many companies seem to be playing with their innovation capability building.

The game came to mind as I read through a recent survey on Innovation

I have just been reading an Innovation report / survey from Accenture called “Clear Vision, Cloudy Execution” and I really do think we are playing with innovation as a game, it has some really serious implications within it that need more drawing out than possibly offered in my view. We should be getting worried that many bigger companies are losing the innovation game.

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Delivering the innovation core: building capability, capacity and competency.

Building capabilities 4Each organization needs to understand its strategic resources to build continuously, so as to sustain and grow the organization; otherwise it will eventually die, starved of what is vital to sustain itself.

The resources provide the lungs that give oxygen; they need to constantly be nurtured, too breathe and pump new life into the existing.

For innovation the same applies, we need to consistently build our innovating resources, they give delivery of the healthy living cells to promote and sustain us in new value potential.

The problem is we often are not very good at maintaining our resources and innovation activity. We just simply do not sustain our efforts, we tend to allow them to drift along or become lopsided from one individual teams efforts, while the others simply ‘wallow’ Continue reading

Building Innovation Capability Through Three Interlocking Platforms

Interlocking rings BorremanA little while back I was reading somewhere an academic paper and it triggered a thought, so I set about capturing it for this post, then it somehow got filed away.

So this is the reworked opening thought to record the idea to ‘capture’ it, so I can reflect later on, about how I should build on this further. I show a number of hyperlinks to help in pulling this together…..well for me anyway!

So this is a work-in-progress and should be taken as a thinking out loud at this stage.

Linking capability through interlocking platforms

We are in need of a different “sustaining” capacity build around innovation as its continuous core, constantly evolving, adapting, learning and adjusting, in perpetual motion.

How? Innovation has many ‘touch points’, a myriad of dimensions that need to be aligned and integrated. How can we achieve this more holistic view, so innovation management can make a significant advancement on where we are today?

Making the business case for innovation to change is not easy but essential

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Innovation can be so remarkable if we can fully embrace it

What is so remarkable about innovation is that it can be highly dynamic.  It’s a task that anyone could do, given the time, education, clarity of purpose and commitments from our organizations, those that recognize the true understanding of the contribution all their people can potentially make towards innovation.

Today, too few people are actually allowed to work on innovation activities, yet the outcomes are ones that everyone wants, and certainly want to be part of. We all want that sense of belonging, of working on or in something that is exciting, dynamic and forward-looking. We really do need to find ways to allow innovation to be part of each person’s daily jobs. Having a sense of purpose to improve or change something through innovation is such a powerful enabler.

Getting from where we are today, seemingly bogged down in many of the legacies of past innovation understanding, seems to me something we must tackle sooner than later also. There is no time like the present to overhaul the existing innovation thinking and upgrade it with a faster, more focused innovating machine that yields greater returns due to this overhaul .

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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.

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The Innovation Journeyman

Continuing the innovation journey

Continuing the innovation journey searching for the framework to deliver the dynamics of innovation by focusing upon achieving a certain innovation fitness.

My  personal innovation journey started way back in 2001 when I got ‘hooked’ on innovation and what it could deliver in it’s impact into a business; for greater engagement within the organization and increased identification through their people, with the potential for learning and improving their capabilities.

Progressively I learnt about innovation, studied it as part of my Master’s degree and began to practice the parts others were prepared to pay me for, either to listen too, or offer advice.

This innovation journey took on a shape that eventually became 100% of my focus within my advisory practices at Agility Innovation Specialists and Hoca Consulting by systematically building my understanding of innovation and providing this knowledge to others through advisory, coaching, writing and mentoring services.

It still is a long continuous journey twelve plus years later.

I’m constantly learning, reading, absorbing and interpreting what I understand and then attempting to provide my thoughts to others, those willing to listen!

I’m comfortable in much, totally restless in so much more out there to explore and work through, so as to achieve potential solutions, through experimentation and prototyping until they become recognized as relevant and applicable.

Investigating, researching and reading all required a significant amount of time, all alongside needing to practice innovation, working to clients’ needs or pushing for their attention to changes taking place within the field of innovation management and what they needed to do about it.

Dynamic capability applied to innovation gained my increased attention

One area that caught my attention, many years back was the notion of “dynamic capability”, the organizations capacity to change its operation and adapt them to the environmental requirements in systematic and fruitful ways. Academic papers by Teece, Pisano and Shuen, by Eisenhardt and Martin and finally for me, Zollo and Winter, all fuelled my thinking at that time.

Winter suggested that organization change happens in two ways; the first is ad-hoc problem driven in our searches or the second is through the action of “stable patterns of activity aimed at creating or changing operating routines in pursuit of enhanced organizational effectiveness” offering the initial definition of dynamic capabilities. I’m up for the second, most organizations still often practice and treat innovation in ad-hoc ways.

What are dynamic capabilities?

These are the skills, processes, routines, organizational structure and disciplines that enable firms to build, employ and orchestrate intangible assets relevant to satisfying customer needs and which cannot be replicated by competitors. Enterprises with strong dynamic capabilities are intensely entrepreneurial, they adapt around business ecosystems, and they shape them through innovation, collaboration, learning and deep involvement.

I was really hooked. This started me on my hardest journey that began in 2008 around my pursuit of building a way to understand what makes up innovation capability and capacities within organizations. I needed to find a way to build, to integrate and configure internal and external competencies to address rapidly changing environments.

Much as Teece, et all, had outlined some years early the notion of this, there continues to lack decent, coherent solutions. Any suggestions I researched were often a little thin on the ground, in practical application but some of the concepts had a richness about them to sustain real interest in my continued pursuit to find a practical, enduring commercial solution to managing the dynamics within innovation. So this became part of my challenge and growing interest.

Moving from intent to cognizance and then application

So I was looking for designing something that gave a sustaining competitive in innovation advantage, that was shaped by the individual organizations specific asset position and where it needed to go and develop to get it to that stated strategic goal they required. This hinged on identifying the value points where resource configurations needed advancing once the gaps could be identified.

This journey has taken me all over the place. I have studied increasingly dynamic capabilities, innovation landscapes, absorptive capacity, where open innovation fits and then increasingly in this more open environment the need for collaboration, for networking, for orchestrating innovation to deliver what is needed, into the markets advancing on existing offerings.

My often interrupted journey was partly by design but also by lacking essential parts.

Since  the 2008 and 2009 period, where I had an incredible burst of energy into this whole area, I found I had to leave it, put it to one side for eighteen months or so. Sometimes you have to stop your searches and reflect a little. Any journey you do need decent resting and reflecting periods.

In 2011 I took up this quest again, yes quest is the right word, as it has both been long and a difficult search. I designed a framework, the innovation fitness landscape model and set up a dedicated web site for managing this at innovation fitness dynamics. This has bubbled along but was not the platform I expected or able to launch in the ways I’d ideally like. Something was still missing.

In this time I’d concluded that to identify the “dynamics” needed for innovation I’d need at least two levels of evaluation – the internal one where it seemed nine descriptors gave the necessary ‘thrusts’ to find the critical internal related aspects and the external one – more as the level of ‘degree’s’ of engagement for evolving the external related need. I was happier with the internal part, not so much with the external one.

I’ve completed some limited testing but by no means feeling I’m yet ready to really push out on this so a short period of digestion and thinking led to another hiatus until a few weeks ago.

So in mid 2013 I have taken up my innovation journey again, relating to innovation dynamics and fitness landscapes. There was a realization I was missing something. The innovation system I had been focusing upon was simply made up for the single organization and although I was consciously working on the external environment and recognizing their degree of importance, I was not  actually reflecting the really big changes going on in innovation today and in the near future, as I should have been. The changes taking place through more open, collaborative innovation. I was writing about it but not taking it fully into this dynamic framework of mine.

My recent ‘trigger’ has been the one word of “Orchestration”

I had not recognized the incredible power of “orchestration” needed in innovation. Of course it was there but it was not as ‘loud and clear’ in my thinking as it should have been. The blind spot had been my focus on pursuing this continual need to organize around innovation within an organization. Although this is as essential today there has been continued and rapid shifts taking place outside the walls and I was not capturing the dynamics of this well enough .

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 are dynamic, the flow of knowledge, of capabilities and competencies all need somehow capturing. Recognizing this shift in my thinking, allowed me to pick up the baton again and begin to conduct all the different fragments and pull them together, into a different result.

I learnt also that innovation needs this growing orchestration, due to this increasing move from firm-centric to network-centric innovation. In my understanding of a orchestrator, he needs to manage the tempo, knowing where and when to cue in the different players (learning) and to inject the intensity into the performance. I was back on my journey recognizing the different passages and movements I’d been on, where all contributing into a final result. “Something” was coming together and I need to work through the new ‘score’ being played out.

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.

To 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 lies in how you purposefully build these capabilities and competencies up. Orchestration is fundamentally dynamic, full of uncertainties but the need is still to connect the parts.

The four dimensions for building capability to innovate are at the individual level, within teams, within the organization and within the dynamic set of networks needed at given times to solve innovation challenges. These capabilities need to possess mobility, appropriability, certain stability and the willingness to learn and build on the existing dynamics. Internal capabilities still need building but we also must work to identify those complementary capabilities across a fluid set of stakeholders to deliver a more complex innovation challenge.

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.

We urgently need to understand the ‘dynamics of innovation’ even more. What is the local maximum, what can we work upon in transition, what we need to bring in for any future co-creation and what needs working upon within specific networks within the innovation capabilities and capacities needed to be applied.

The dynamic view of orchestrating is needed

The orchestrating of open innovation challenges is dynamic and we increasingly need to know the critical factors and their dependencies for delivering a collaborative innovation success. 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 intangible assets relevant to satisfying customer needs and which cannot be replicated by competitors, that delivers the new innovation needed through collaboration efforts.

My journey continues and I plan to outline in two separate and future posts, my journey approach for organizations to build dynamic innovation capabilities and a deeper outline of the growing importance of orchestration within managing innovation today and the future. Then I need to re-test my innovation fitness landscape framework to see if it does deliver the ‘dynamics’ in capabilities needed to extract better innovation outcomes.

At least I see an end in sight or is it a false ‘peak’ hiding the further journey I have to travel? Let’s see.

There are two distinct parts to any Innovation Funnel

I wrote in an earlier blog called “the new extended innovation funnel” (http://bit.ly/hQTEJz) my reasoning for thinking differently from our traditional view of how the innovation funnel should look like. I feel it should look more like this.

Extended Innovation Funnel – are we really listening?

The ‘classic’ innovation funnel talked about is wrong for todays job!

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