9 Stages for building innovation fitness

St Gottard Pass

Achieving innovation fitness is a journey- to get there we often have to manage the switchbacks as we build our capabilities and capacities to innovate.

  1. Getting Started – Understanding the Needs & Imperatives of Innovation Fitness
  • Why we must travel this critical path for Innovation.
  • The meaning of dynamic capabilities and innovation fitness landscapes
  • Merging  the theory with practical reality to produce new outcomes and positive results.
  • Focusing on resources and performance – why is this important
  • The problem is knowing what we have and what we really need

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Recognizing the different capabilities to develop and grow

IFD Complexity WebA firm’s ordinary capabilities are the ones that enable us to perform efficiently and effectively, those essential routines and practices that often require having a high level of technical need supporting these activities.

In contrast, dynamic capabilities are those higher level competences that determine a firm’s ability to integrate, build, and reconfigure both the resources and competences to possibly shape, have the power to transform and  then be deployed to meet rapidly changing business environments to take advantage of these changing conditions.

Recognizing the importance of Dynamic Capabilities

Dynamic capabilities are about selecting the right things to do and getting them done, while ordinary capabilities are about doing things right. The former implicates dynamic efficiency, the latter static efficiency.

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Knowing your innovation core

I think we all recognize that innovation is made up of both tangible and intangible assets. It is the marriage of these two that makes innovation a unique capability to manage in well-structured ways. It is the people engaged in innovation activity that make it work.  Everything else, the process, structures, technologies and management systems are just the contributing enablers.

Appreciating what makes up the Core

Appreciating what makes up the Core

The important point though is successful innovation has core elements and processes regardless of industry, form, or type of innovation, we are pursuing.  Much of the difference though is in its varying degree’s based on these core elements.

Our search must be to find those core elements that make up the dynamic capabilities within our innovation activities to leverage and strengthen them. We need to build an organizations ability to innovation continuously, making it a sustaining competence.

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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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The AC components that deepen the capacity to innovate

Generally, absorptive capacity should be focused on the capacity to make use of existing knowledge both internally and externally, placing the emphasis on the capacity to assimilate and transform it (often differently). It deepens the capacity that lies within an organization for exploring innovation further.

The importance is to develop the ability to achieve “new value recognition”in new and different ways.

How do you go about to recognize value when it is not linked to existing thinking?  Absorptive capacity can be a paradox. You require more external knowledge to ‘push’ beyond your existing knowledge learning and so absorbing from it; you are demanding more absorptive capacity to be in place.  Equally you need to combine this with the need to break down that “prior related knowledge” radically differently, so it can stimulate breakthroughs in your thinking. Absorptive Capacity can pose significant challenges to the organization. How you deal effectively with the absorption of knowledge determines it’s potential to be transformed for new innovative ability and this will be determined partly by  how you structure the attractiveness for a learning environment so it ‘takes hold’ and can be absorbed differently, for different needs.

Absoptive Capacity- Knoweldge Adoption Framework.

Explaining the key components shown in the above diagram

These components make up the essential elements of a ‘knowledge adoption’ innovation system.

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Understanding Absorptive Capacity

IFD AC only

Understanding Absorptive Capacity and how it works

“Absorptive capacity” is a term introduced through some academic research by Cohen & Levinthal, back in 1990 to describe an organizations “ability to recognize the value of new, external information (knowledge), assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends”. Since then there has been significant academic contributions for exploring and validating this, in order to improve innovation performance and competitive advantage, yet it is still not well integrated into our innovation process. Why is that?

What we do need is to do is improve our HR management and network systems to build a more efficient transfer of knowledge throughout the organization so as to acquire and leverage new knowledge . This is part of applying the principles of absorptive capacity as we increasingly use more networks, external partners and collaborate with others we are accessing wider skills, inputs and competencies. We need to invest and learn what this does provide, to aid the innovation process. The theory goes that the more we understand, the more the innovative behavior and capability does goes up in potential and the more we have available a richer innovation choice .

The Model of Absorptive Capacity explores potential and realized knowledge.

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Cultivating Absorptive Capacity

The flow of knowledge as our alternative currents

The flow of knowledge as our alternative currents

We need to cultivate Absorptive behaviour and allow it to flow.

We need a system to capture and allow knowledge to flow. For me the adoption model seems to be one worth investigating. If we want to achieve the goal of distributed innovation we need to have in place this possible framework around absorptive capacity to encourage different learning behaviours.. Nesta (www.nesta.org.uk) produced a useful report some time back called “Innovation by Adoption” and I feel this has a good framework that support distributed innovation.

The report argues in a place with a strong absorptive capacity three main outputs subsequently result from the flow of external or distributed knowledge: (1) the creation of new innovation; (2) the creation of new knowledge; and (3) that it does lead to new economic and social value.

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