An Introduction

Agile/Creative/Innovative Organisations

Enterprises that are comprehensively embedded in global supply chains need to be agile and flexible to meet just-in-time customer demands and relatively rapid scale-up/scale-down scenarios

As organisations seek ways to balance economic, environmental and social sustainability requirements they must creatively balance a focus on being accountable and managing current activities efficiently with product/process/ organisational innovation. The over-use and emphasis on the word innovation combined with complexity in operating conditions led one CEO we encountered to prefer the expression 'creative change' when working with his employees on something new to focus on the endpoint.

Agility and Flexibility

Some researchers see there is a significant difference between agility and flexibility. They see agility as involving adaptive learning and being able to rapidly create different operational configurations, whereas flexibility is adaptation within an established mode/domain. Flexibility may be enhanced by providing a number of modes of operation. An example is in banking where some similar and some different transactions may take place on-line, via telephone, using an ATM, at a local branch, or with a banking representative who meets at an agreed venue.

Organisational Creativity

In some organisations that provide designs of various kinds to clients, creativity is normal and valued. But in other kinds of organisations focused on efficient, recurrent kinds of operations where activities may be standardised to promote efficiency, special efforts may have to be made to support creative problem-solving.

Innovation as a Journey

Extracting Value from an innovation involves repeatedly

  1. Exploring possibilities using divergent thinking,
  2. Evaluating emergent options and defining proof of concept criteria, and
  3. Convergent thinking to exploite opportunities presented by the rollout of the innovation.

This pattern can be observed at a macro-level as an innovation moves from concept to application, and at a micro-level within development stages along the way. In planning and undertaking a journey, matters of place, the purpose of the journey (idea), the resources needed, time window and scheduling of key events need to be considered. We observe these contextual factors also shape the innovation journey - 'being in the right place at the right time'; 'an idea whose time has come'.

Successful innovations develop an idea by combining an unmet need/want with a technology platform1) to develop a novel combination that delivers value to its users. Once an innovation has been developed, this is not the end of the process, but a new beginning as full value is extracted from an innovation when it becomes a platform for growth and spawns other innovative ideas. By way of example, the launch of global positioning satellites has resulted in a huge number of applications using this infrastructure.

Innovation as a Social Process

Innovation starts with an idea which is subsequently combined with other existing or new ideas to deliver a product/process/practice that people can beneficially utlise. Whilst a particular idea may be associated with a particular individual, developing an innovation is a team sport that is best played within particular social structures. The process has been likened to making a movie, where there is a long list of acknowledging those involved shown at the end. It has also be likened to a relay race where the baton has to be passed to another runner for the next stage.

A particular innovation may have a long gestation period or a short one. It may be useful for a long or short time. It may be appropriate at a particular time and place, but not at another. Each time an place has its own cast of actors and social structures that reinforce each other.2)

The Actors Involved

Innovation Champions

Within organisations and communities there are people with ideas for creative change, but only some of them are able to bring their idea to fruition. Who are these people and how do they do it? Innovation starts with an idea, but unless some-one is passionate about the idea, interacts with others to promote and develop the idea and is supported with appropriate infrastructure, the idea may not realize its full potential. Such people actively champion the idea (or a collection of ideas) and fight for its survival and acceptance.

The Supporting Cast

Associated Strucures

Sense-making Structures

Legitimisation Structures

Political and Resource Allocation Structures

1) Here we define the term technology broadly. It may have developed from the physical sciences, life sciences or social sciences. It may be in current use or a new development.
2) This approach draws on the principles of structuration theory where it is observed that actors work within established structures, but the repeated use of these structures reinforces their utility
Last modified: 2012/12/29 22:47