Learning the mantra of innovation context

Innovation Context is KingWe have all got used to the statement it is all about “location, location, location” for real-estate. So what should the mantra be for innovation? I think “context, context and context”. Context is a king.

Innovation happens all around us, same as with our places where we live- it is determined by many factors but given a choice we want to live somewhere nice, safe and hopefully going up in value! The same with innovation we want it to be good, attractive, useful and valued by many, hopefully willing to part with their money because it fulfils their need.

Innovation should always start of by being placed in its appropriate context otherwise it will lose its initial connection, dilute in the eventual value and arrive as less desirable because we somehow and somewhere went off track We lost the context because we never really established the real ‘sense of purpose’ for that specific innovation or given direction to explore.

Why do I believe context is the king when it comes to innovation?

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Linking innovation context to the process

Time passes extremely quickly, particularly when you enjoy yourself, or so it seems for me. I was surprised, going through some of my past blogs, the time between related entries on the need for having in place a sustaining competitive advantage framework on innovation, has been longer than they it should have been. This blog is the third entry on this subject.

Always, always and always do I see organizations struggle to align themselves for their innovation activity, why is this? Either alignment of innovation into the strategy they are (assumedly) following or shaping innovation into the context of where and how innovation can fit.

I’ve written on this often enough actually, and argued the need for building a more sustaining innovation framework.  I have been working for some time within one of my formulas on this with its given framework of II + EE + MLC + OC + RNE build towards = SCA. I somehow suspect you need nudging on what this means

Required past reading possibly needed here.

Without duplicating more than necessary you need to go back and read two previous blogs on this

The first was written in August 2010 and entitled “A formula for Sustaining Competitive Advantage through Innovation”. The link is here:  http://bit.ly/95kCI1

The second was written in June 2011 and entitled “Sustaining is Pivotal to Making Innovation Progress”. The link is here: http://bit.ly/lPLssm

Both offer a helpful introduction to the framework and formula.

The next part of the equation

This blog ‘advances’ this framework by attempting to link the context of innovation into a process to think through. I say attempting because we need to accept each building process is different, and unique to the organization and the circumstances of what they want innovation to achieve, besides the standard reply “growth and profit”. Doesn’t this always sounds like the famous question asked at beauty pageants: “So what’s the most important issue for you?” asks the compare with the reply “world peace”. Oh, I wish it was so simple.

Those leaders that talk of “growth and profit” from innovation seem to reduce it to just a sound bite, I just wish it was so simple. I do wish the majority of our business leaders would get ‘into’ innovation understanding a lot more. Innovation breaks down always outside the CEO’s executive door and it really does need them to step outside and get more fully involved as it is a major area to succeed at if a longer tenure is in their minds.

Still, I digress. Here I outline how I see a typical linking through of a context to innovation in a ‘flow through’ process that is shaped along the II + EE + MLC + OC + RNE build towards = SCA, framework.

Innovation Alignment, Context & Process

Innovation Alignment to the Corporate Strategy does need working through. It needs linking to business goals and strategy, to the role innovation plays within this, the type of innovation portfolio you wish to design and work upon and the delivery and adoption needed so the organization ‘aligns’ itself. You need a thinking-through process to align context into activity.

This takes time, it needs sustaining effort but it needs leadership to understand the critical connecting parts to do this. It needs a defining framework that I see as separate to what I’m offering here. On my present rate of outlining this it does seems sometime next year for that – not good news for those interested.

Watch this space

Actually let me share a little secret between us,  I’m working on a more radical, visually appealing and exciting way to approach this now but within a joint collaboration around this critical issue. So, who knows this might be discussed earlier than my past track record of once a year to move from one aspect to another. It needs to be and I’m sure my collaborating partner on this will be pushing me a lot harder going forward.

Finding space for growing innovation

Making innovation a constant daily task for everyone to become involved is certainly a real problem for many organizations. Innovation does not sit comfortably alongside efficiency or effectiveness as it requires a much looser structure. It constantly ‘flies’ in direct conflict too much for many within organizations to create resistence and adoption. Innovation is looking to increase variability, nearly everything else in the organization is the exact opposite. How do we address this resistence and make innovation part of the daily working routines? Where can we start?

We have to open up our thinking to a number of “possible paths” to allow it to flow. I believe innovation should not be highly structured; it should be more loosely structured to allow possibility.

For a start individuals and organizations needs to explore multiple ways to learn and find the right pathway for innovation learning as they progress. This needs a more ‘dynamic social fabric’ to allow it to flow, it needs organizational encouragement. It needs mutual adaption and mutual adjustment. The understanding of absorptive capacity framework I’ve outlined before helps structure this.

Three simple rules have great intent.

Possible a starting point is through three simple rules I came across, but presently I can’t find the reference source on this regretfully. These seem to me to have a powerful intent:

  1. Mapping organizational and project innovation processes in the context of a shared responsibility for innovation relies on the rule of taking full responsibility that allows all “to see” the space of innovation that exists.
  1. Generalizing organizational and project knowledge in the context where knowledge is a central task relies on the rule of supporting routines for getting to that space and for keeping it open for all to share and explore:.
  • -This helps people be collectively conscious of what they know and how they now, build up and having expertise in are all dynamic routine activities to become competent experts.
  • – It also fosters respect for knowing and leaning from what others know and contributes to a growing improved skillset far more geared towards understanding higher-level conceptual frameworks
  1. Spiraling across cycles of adaptation in a context of constantly looking for new opportunities relies on the rule for constantly searching for new opportunities that creates an organization in which people are used to innovation that becomes a second nature– “the chaos is that we are constantly innovating”. Also the rule provides people with vital resource of having ways to deal with inevitable surprises of innovation.

We need to find ways to combined general knowledge for wide awareness of available options, and specialized knowledge for assessing the systemic impact of specific options. We need to move towards the development of “T-Shaped skills” being available constantly, to apply to different problems. Choice can stay fluid and it gradually ‘firms up’ to allow greater exploration and evaluation, as we ‘master’ knowledge and progressively experiment.

The ability to innovate is in the people, it is not in a procedures. Our pressing need is to structure innovation activity into everyday work, to make it dynamic in capability and become the new routine work.  I feel these three simple rules just seem to make such good sense as a starting point for making innovation part of every persons working day. Do you?