Monday, February 14, 2011

Innovation Systems

There were five questions about innovation systems that I posed in my blog of July 6, 2009. I answered the first two questions but never did complete the series:

1. Why did you begin working with innovation systems?

2. How would you define an innovation system?

3. What is your favorite aspect /concept of innovation systems?

4. In your opinion, what is the most problematic aspect/concept of innovation systems?

5. How do you see the future of innovation systems?

So, let’s see if I can complete the series now.

What is your favorite aspect /concept of innovation systems?

There are two. One aspect is that an innovation system can be generative, and the second is that it can improve the common weal.

An innovation system can be generative in that it can outlive the humans that fashioned it and continue producing innovation and reinventing itself.

Weal is an old word not often used in our society today, but it indicates a viewpoint missing from the common paradigm. Weal means prosperity; happiness or more broadly, the way I’m using it, the welfare of the community; the general good. If the innovation system is conceived to encompass all its important elements, it can produce innovations that improve the general good. Innovation doesn’t have to be sub optimized, focused solely on the bottom line.

In your opinion, what is the most problematic aspect/concept of innovation systems?

First that they even exist. Many people, particularly in business, think that innovation is an accident, a freak of nature. Their strategy is to let other people invest the money and roll the dice, and then to just cherry pick the ones that make it, paying the organization or individual who developed it. The second assumption they make is that their organization is like a machine with plug compatible parts. And, since “pigs is pigs”, they can just bring the innovation into their organization easily.

I tend to follow Peter Drucker in this respect. In Innovation and Entrepreneurship he defined systematic innovation as “the purposeful and organized search for changes, and in the systematic analysis of the opportunities such changes might offer for economic or social innovation.”

Systematic, purposeful innovation will create an effective and efficient organization. Systematic, purposeful innovation begins by identifying the changes occurring in a market. This is followed by understanding the opportunities and threats that will result from these changes, developing a strategy to take advantage of the opportunity and avoiding or minimizing threats, assessing the organization's capability to implement the strategy, and developing an organization which can effectively and efficiently innovate.

If this systematic, purposeful innovation process is followed, the organization will benefit by becoming market driven. It will do what is appropriate for the market and it will anticipate the market. As a result, the organization will become more effective and efficient. Society will benefit because the organizations within it that create wealth and meet societal needs will be more sharply focused on the proper targets.

The purpose of business is innovation, which, when properly focused, creates wealth as defined in the broadest sense. The creation of wealth benefits all.

There is another issue with innovation systems. Every innovation system has an innovation bias. In other words, each innovation system tends towards a particular innovation profile.

How do you see the future of innovation systems?

The future of innovation systems is complexity. I see an innovation system as a complex system composed of intelligent agents with emergent properties. The ecology of the complex innovation system is sustainable. It would be adaptable to its environment, and possibly under certain condition self replicable.

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