Key Contextual Influences

We have been considering the core generic innovation process as a series of stages distributed over time and have identified key challenges which emerge in their effective management. But the process doesn’t take place in a vacuum – it is subject to a range of internal and external influences which shape what is possible and what actually emerges. Roy Roth well distinguishes between what he terms project related factor essentially those which we have been considering so far and corporate conditions which set the context in which the process is managed . For the purposes of the book we will consider three sets of such contextual factors.

1) The strategic context for innovation
2) The innovativeness of the organization.
3) The connection between the organization and key elements in its external environments.

Beyond the steady State

The model we have been developing in this article is very much about the world of repeated continuous innovation where the underlying assumption is that we are doing what we do but better. This is not necessarily only about incremental innovation – it is possible to have significant step changes in product / service offering process, etc – but these still take place within an established envelope. The rules of the game in terms of technological possibilities, market demands, competitor behavior, political context etc are fairly clear and although there is scope for pushing at the edges the space within which innovation happens is well defined.

Central model is the idea of learning through trial and error to build effective routines which can help improve the chances of successful innovation. Because we get a lot of practice as such innovation becomes possible to talk about a good (if not best) practice model fro innovation management which can be used to audit and guide organizational development.

But we need to also take into account that innovation is something discontinuous in nature Things happen – which lie outside the normal frame and result in changes to the rules of the game. Under these conditions doing more of the same good practice routines may not be enough and may even be inappropriate to dealing with the new challenges. Instead we need a different set of routines not to use instead of but as well as those we have developed for steady state conditions. It is likely to be harder to identify and learn these, in part because we don’t get so much practice – it is hard to make a routine out of something which happens only occasionally. But we can observe some of the basic elements of the complementary routines which are associated with successful innovation management under discontinuous conditions. These tend to be associated with highly flexible behaviors involving agility, tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, emphasis on fast learning through quick failure etc., are characteristics that are often found in small entrepreneurial firms.

As we will see throughout a key challenge in managing innovation is the ability to create ways of dealing with both sets of challenges and if possible to do as in ambidextrous fashion maintaining lose links between the two rather than spinning off completely separate ventures.

Beyond Boundaries:

As we noted part of the management challenge around innovation in the twenty first century is learning to deal with the process at an inter organizational level. Innovation involves an increasingly large and diverse set of players arranged in various kinds of network and managing across these boundaries represents a new set of issues and requires new and complementary routines to help deal with them. We argue that the underlying model of innovation presented in this article still offers a relevant framework around which to help think about and develop suitable routines for managing the process. Throughout the remainder of the book we will look at these core innovation themes but also at the ways in which this beyond the boundaries challenge is being met and dealt with.

Source: Managing Innovation