Holding the innovations of the future back

Lifting the innovation capitalI clearly believe we do need to understand the strategic importance of the make-up of our innovation capital, yet presently nearly all our corporate boards lack any clear line of sight into this. Why?

Not understanding what makes up the capital is holding innovation back. We are actually constraining growth through this lack of understanding as it makes us all cautious of the future.

If we don’t fully understand the make-up of all our capital should we invest or divert resources to delivering on it? I think it is high time we did.

So what makes up our innovation capital and why is it important to know?

Should we care, does it matter? I would argue it does, increasingly so. Within the innovation capital lies the future of the organization and holds one of the real golden keys to the sustaining performance of the company, or not.

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Combining four foundation pillars.


We need to think about recognizing the ‘combining effects’ of four foundation pillars; of value creation (vc), business models (bm), intellectual capital assets (ica) and innovation capital (ic). It is the dynamics within the multiple combinations that will generate the future wealth creation we need.

We are in need of having a better understanding of the integrated value focal points of these four pillars combining, they need connecting so we can build the supporting structures and place the roof of need, our wealth creating one, to give us a new potential of harnessing our innate abilities to be creative. These four pillars offer perhaps a new core, a new transforming power, they make our activities connected and dynamic.

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Struggling with counting ALL the sums of our capital

Recognizing the different capitals

Organizations have been focused for far too long around the importance of financial capital. It determines and drives organizations destinies. We are caught in a constant focus upon our achieving a return on our (financial) capital as our measuring criteria. Organizations strive for improving their ROCE, RONA, IRR,  EVA and a host of other financial measures.

As Clayton Christensen has been arguing the agenda of organizations begins and ends with the “search for numbers”. I think there is a time for changing this, we need to search for the knowledge that makes-up eventually the numbers.

There has been a distant voice for some time putting forward the need to appreciate and value the other capitals sitting within organizations. Much of the discussions have been housed under the term “intellectual capital” which denotes the sum of knowledge made up and contributed by our human assets, our organizational structures and our relationships that are developed.

These are the ‘capitals’ that transform into economic value through organization action. It is the financial capital that simply finances this.

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The world is working within increased complexity, are you?

IFD DNAThe challenges of managing in today’s worlds are tough, very tough and demanding. It is so volatile, potentially disruptive and full of risk. Organizations are simply struggling to shed their clothes of the 20th century and find a way to smoothly manage into becoming more adaptable and agile in form. They are adjusting to offer consistent responses to instability in the most effective ways, to keep adapting to the consistent market challenges,and in so doing profiting from meeting that latest challenge or disruptive opportunity.

The problem is you simply can’t manage this smoothly, it will be highly disruptive as the organization re-equips themselves and learns, often in the hardest way possible, through failure, through experimentation, through risk-taking . Innovation is increasingly seen as the pathway forward in capturing growth and grabbing any advantage, even if these are increasingly transient. Yet as we look towards building our innovation capabilities we need to work in totally different ways and see ‘things’ in new ways.

Innovation in itself is also a force of instability and we need to find ways to embrace much of its uncertainties by understanding its dynamics. We need to have a major shift in our organizational thinking, needed to find the appropriate new balance within those dual ‘tensions’ of ‘stability’ through efficiency, with its opposite, ‘change’ driven by innovation. It is these dynamic forces within the world we work that require us to respond by building that capacity for managing those ‘dynamic’ innovation capabilities, that today’s markets are requiring and organizations are needing to master.

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Nine steps leading to understanding your dynamic innovation capabilities

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

This is my adopted approach to work through this in a systematic way.

No question, this is designed to make sure those involved take their time working through the different levels of understanding needed. A journey where you ‘transform’ your innovation capabilities is likely to be realistically over twelve months or more. So much does get in the way to deflect you, to block you, to divert you. This is the nature of organizations, any approach to making ‘transformational’ change, and this is what this is, needs to go at the right speed and deal with the obstacles and constraints in thoughtful, well designed and clear ways.

Why is this potentially a long journey?

Nine steps in building innovation capability

The steps in building innovation capability

Well to appreciate what you require you must firstly need to understand not only what you have but what it currently provides.

Then you need to construct a clear strategic position of where you want to go in your innovation activities and these are totally different and unique to each organization.

Any journey like this needs to be well thought through, considered for all its implications and potential impact and disruption to what is existing.

It is a journey you have to want to travel and your fitness levels need to be progressively built up.

So these steps may have ‘individual wrinkles’ to them but most probably follow the same innovation discovery pathway.

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Continuing the Innovation Journey- connecting the points

IFD 100 pc 1I’m constantly learning, reading, absorbing and interpreting what I understand and then attempting to provide my thoughts to others, those willing to listen about innovation!

Innovation capability building is my 100% focus from my work point of view.

I’m comfortable in much of the understanding of what makes up innovation, totally restless in so much more that is out there to explore and work through – I believe we need to significantly improve potential solutions, through experimentation and prototyping until they become recognized as relevant and applicable and become deeply embedded within our organizations as the accepted approach to innovation design and management.

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 keeps gaining 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 fueled my thinking at that time.

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Innovation fitness dynamics – to engage with and recognize the need to change.

Working through the innovation fitness lense

Working through the innovation fitness lens

There is a continuing need is to build the management of innovation into a clear organizational capability, where innovation becomes a continuous effective innovation process.

To this end I have produced a conceptual model of what constitutes the ‘make up’ for providing an ongoing innovation performance engine- the innovation fitness landscape and the dynamics– that determine the appropriate capabilities and capacities available & required. I felt it needs a dedicated website to be the ‘go to’ source of reference. It is a work-in-progress so please recognize this when you visit it here: http://bit.ly/wX5q8R.

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