Innovation at the Edges

Not everything happens at the centre, in those spaces that we know well, control fully, and feel comfortable within.

Innovation may happen in the friction, through the cracks, at the edges.

Synthesis, connection, discovery: application, iteration, evolution. The fracturing of the old. These things may happen through exposure to difference, through fortuitous chance, or by careful hypothesis and design. Sometimes we are changed by desire, and sometime by happenstance.

There is a perpetual tension between the known, the disruptive, and the transformative. Systems are built upon the known: systems may react to the disruptive (or even encourage it), but systems are fractured by transformation as an act of wilful destruction. So to some extent the ability of an Organisation to be innovative may be determined by it’s appetite for self harm – how willing or able it is to deconstruct aspects of it’s own existing structure and power.

At a broad level, we may wish to consider the relationship between ‘system’ and ‘innovation’, and the mechanisms and location of difference and disturbance.

If we believe that innovation will happen from the centre, through process, then we need robust structure to manage it. If we believe that it will happen at the edges, through friction, then we need robust opportunity to identify and nurture it.

That may be an over simplification, but we could address it through a different lens: to ask whether innovation is something we cause, or discover? Is our challenge to create the conditions, or to create the sensory array?

Consider the frictions within your own Organisational system: the intersections of belief, with power, of culture and stories, or spaces and knowledge, of ideas and certainty, of communities and technology.

The heat is generated at the edges, not the centre.

In my last book, ‘The Socially Dynamic Organisation’, i expanded on the idea that what we need is Individual Agency at scale – the ability for anyone to find space, power, and story, and to be heard. An Organisation with strength in depth. So less heroic leadership, more humble. And less monumental systems so much as sensory arrays. Indeed in that work i suggested we move away from the Domain based structure, to a more Socially Dynamic one – one where people are connected in more fluid (and highly interconnected and mixed structures), and where power is more divorced from role and position. 

This work forms part of a current series of posts that are exploring aspect of innovation: it is not shared as a framework, but rather as a continuous process 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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