Innovation Info Flows – Bottom, Top, Inside, and Outside

October 18, 2010 by  

Emergent strategy and innovation are about opening up the flow of information and ideas. The farther we get into the knowledge economy, the more that knowledge gets spread across a company’s network, both internally (through human and structural capital) and externally (through relationship capital of all kinds). The fact that much of the important knowledge is spread out in this diverse ecosystem has significant implications on some of the most basic ways that we see an organization.

To leverage and build this knowledge, the management structure and approaches need to have room for the flow of information and innovation from the bottom up as well as the top down, from both the inside out and the outside in. Many innovation opportunities are created at the intersection between employee and/or organizational competencies and the needs of the marketplace. Opportunities can often only be detected at the employee or business unit level. Finding and exploiting these opportunities is the challenge of emergent strategies.

The role of a leader is different when trying to cultivate emergent strategies. The outside-in view of competitive strategy is not enough. Leaders also need to take an inside-out view of the corporate resources that create the ecosystem where innovative strategies will emerge and thrive. This innovation ecosystem is a place where smart people share their knowledge and, often in cooperation with customers or partners, create new opportunities for growth. The field of innovation is mainly focused on fomenting these emergent strategies. The innovation ecosystem is your intangible capital.

Adapted from Intangible Capital: Putting Knowledge to Work in the 21st Century Organization by Mary Adams and Michael Oleksak.

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