#WorkingOutLoud – Perspectives on #Innovation

Some early stage thinking here around three perspectives on innovation: this is an abstraction really, but a way to look through three different lenses, to consider where, and how, we innovate. In some ways it may also allow us to consider constraint: if we are culturally, or behaviourally, more likely to focus on one of these, to the detriment of the opportunity of the others.

The three sections illustrate the three lenses, broadly as follows:

[1] INNOVATION within system boundaries – this is about optimisation and adaptation within overarching structures. So e.g. looking at systems, processes, hierarchy to achieve known ends, but faster/cheaper/better. This type of innovation typically happens within dominant structures of power, and mechanisms of control: regulatory frameworks, formal leadership structures, controlled finances etc. This type of innovation is perhaps more about optimisation than revolution. And this type of innovation may be constrained by the conception of the challenge: known thinking in known spaces.

[2] The second lens considers the EVOLUTION or importation of system mechanisms – so this is about technologies, methodologies, and imported cultural tropes. For example: adopting AGILE approaches is the adoption of an externally innovated methodology, or buying in a technology solution which is about licensing of external IP. This is the ‘buy your way’ approach to adaptation, often incremental. There are significant advantages to this, in that it requires little internal imagination, and also the ‘procurement’ approach may bypass cultural inhibitions around new ideas – e.g a technology is less likely to provoke immune responses than an idea that i did not have myself. The notion of cultural tropes is that we try to evolve by adopting the furniture, or behaviours, that exist elsewhere (‘we want an Amazon culture’), but without doing the hard and cultural thinking that goes behind it (e.g. power and control do not adapt).

[3] The RE-CONTEXTUALISATION of outputs is a shift to an ‘outside in’ perspective – instead of worrying about what lies within System Boundaries [1], or the mechanisms of effect [2], we instead consider outputs in terms of productivity or effectiveness. Under this approach to innovation, we may be prepared to tolerate messiness: diversity of thinking and action as we move away from consistency and conformity, towards individual agency and localised expertise. Conceptually this is more a view of the Organisation as a startup – output led, rather than the Organisation as an entity that needs to adapt.

This work links back to earlier work on ‘Frames’ and ‘Scripts’: that our understanding is held within a container that we have learned, and that we behave in efficient, yet wilfully constrained, ways, that optimise us within the existing frame.

This is early stage work that will iterate fast, shared as part of #WorkingOutLoud.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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