November 24, 2015

Organizing for Innovation

Innovation is first planned in organizations. An organization plan  is developed next. Resources are are acquired next as per the organization plan. Innovation culture is a part of the organization plan but it is exhibited during the directing process. The authors say, the innovation organization, can be inhibited or it can be supported. One of the critical support elements that is responsible  is infrastructure, which consists primarily of the processes people use to do their work, and a work place that itself helps people to work effectively to meet the challenges of rapid learning and high
creativity that’s required for innovation to thrive. Work place is a part of the organization plan.

Work Process, Collaboration and Work Design

The concept of a “work process” is that to accomplish the tasks at hand in any activity that involves creative thinking, collaboration, or what is often referred to as “knowledge work,” people have to choose how to get the work done. Is this an individual task or a group task? Is it a meeting, a
brainstorming session, a workshop, or a conference? While many time  these decisions are easily made, but some require deeper thought.

Productivity of capital is achieved by productive operations. Making and selling of products and services create customer experiences, and internal functions like marketing strongly affect differentiation. Can your company provide a superior experience for your customers?

And what supports productive operations? Given rapid change as well as structural shifts across the economy, organizational effectiveness is supported by the constant application of creativity and the development of innovations that make a difference.

The key capabilities that enable creativity and innovation are learning and leadership. Through learning we recognize when and why new information and knowledge are important to the present and future of the organization. And as we have discussed, support for knowledge-creation,
learning, creativity, and innovation are very much a function of an organization’s leadership.

At the base of this productivity tree there is a single quality which supports everything else that distinguishes outstanding companies from the mediocre ones, and that is the ability of the people inside the organization to work well together with others inside and outside, to learn together, to create together. Thus, collaboration is in a fundamental way the very foundation of business success. It is also a key foundation of innovation, because success at innovation requires massive amounts of effective collaboration.
Collaboration means that there is a spirit of openness that leads people to ask probing questions, to
come up with innovative solutions by sharing knowledge between departmental, to look deeply even though it might be easier to look only superficially. There are teams working effectively, problems grasped and solved quickly, and pervasive networks through which many problems are dissolved before they ever manifest. In other words, the prevailing work process in the company favors collaboration, and the means are at hand to ensure that such collaboration is effective.

Could it really be true that companies in which people collaborate more effectively generate better returns on capital?

Toyota is  renowned for its innovation system and for its collaborative culture, is now one of the most admired companies in the world

The Work Place: Social Design and the Innovation Milieu

While it’s quite possible to create and enhance the conditions that support creativity by supporting effective collaboration, the actual arrival of creative ideas is entirely unpredictable. Innovation, on the other hand, is a social and managerial process because it requires that people with complementary expertise and viewpoints work together. Hence, most people working as innovation professionals,
particularly those in R&D, firmly believe that successful social interaction is critical to the success of the innovation process.

Innovation is undoubtedly a social art, and although it can occasionally be the province of a unique
or exceptionally talented individual, it’s more commonly a group effort. In modern organizations it is commonly the fruit of people who work together effectively, applying their diverse talents and experiences to complement one another and provide the depth of experience and capability that
enables them to transform ideas into useful products, services, and business models.

All of these issues come together in a compelling way in the physical setting that is designed specifically to support the work of innovation, namely the research laboratory. A few years ago I had the opportunity to
study nine new R&D labs built by pharmaceutical and high companies, and this process illuminated a number of principles that, taken together, describe many key aspects of the ideal physical infrastructure for innovation. Each of these companies had invested heavily in facilities that encouraged and even forced researchers to interact with one another, and this led me to
understand that these facilities represent a new dimension of architecture that I now refer to as “social design,” the application of architectural principles to promote social interaction and effective innovation.

Social Design Theory in Practice: The Design of R&D Labs

The term “social design” refers to that aspect of architecture which takes as a priority the creation of environments for effective and positive human interaction.

Since the design of both facilities and organizations are entirely complementary to one another, these two aspects of design can literally define and reinforce collaboration in this age of “intellectual capital.”

One of the underlying reasons has to do with the nature of creativity. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi points out, “An idea or product that deserves the label ‘creative’ arises from the synergy of many sources and not only from the mind of a single person. It is easier to enhance creativity by changing
conditions in the environment than by trying to make people think more creatively.”

In a typical laboratory, scientists, engineers, and technicians design and conduct experiments whose purpose is to create useful new knowledge that may pertain to the uncharted physical world of chemistry or biology, to the behavior of man-made products, or to how people interact with each other and with physical artifacts.

For example, Glaxo Wellcome chemist Dan Sternbach had this to say about collaboration in the corridor that runs through his building. “The ‘people corridor’ that connects all the offices actually forces everyone to walk by every office. That's good for communication. You know when people are in and you can stop by their offices. The whole argument about proximity means a lot when you're collaborating with people.”

MacArthur Fellow J. Kirk Varnedoe, former Director of Painting and Sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art puts it this way: “Creativity is not solely a brain function, but a social function as well.”

Genentech believes that informal communication improves the possibility of doing something new and innovative, and this belief has significant influence on the design of Genentech's facilities. For example, the location of offices, toilets, mail rooms, copiers, coffee machines, and stairways within individual buildings is intended to force interactions by bringing people to these shared spaces and functions. In addition, special “interaction spaces” have been included in many facilities, with varying degrees of success. Subsequent observations at Genentech (and confirmed at Sun Microsystems) revealed that the psychology of these spaces can be complex.


1. Organize for Interaction
It’s universally accepted that organizational hierarchies suppress important and desirable qualities such as innovativeness, creativity, adaptiveness, etc.Many companies are attempting to reduce the influence of the hierarchy and shift to network based organizations, as we discussed in the
last chapter.

2. Design for Interaction
Facilities are designed to increase the frequency and quality of interactions, to support meaningful dialog, not just bumping shoulders in the hallway or the elevator.

3. Design for Flexibility
Many of the features that are intended to increase interaction also serve
to reduce cost by increasing the flexibility of the work environment while
simultaneously reducing square footage requirements.

4. Design for Aesthetics
Features that address aesthetics are difficult to value, but managers at
many facilities cited competition for talented individuals as one reason for
the continuing effort to bring beauty to the workplace.

Collaboration Centers

In addition to facilities that support spontaneous collaboration and small gatherings, there is also a need for larger spaces to accommodate larger groups. We call these facilities Collaboration Centers, and over the years we’ve seen many great examples.

How can we assess the effectiveness of interaction? Here are four critical dimensions.

1. Cycle time: Great infrastructure enables firms to reduce the cycle time from initial insight to application in new ideas and new products. High-performance facilities contribute significantly to the productivity of knowledge.
2. Quantity: Great collaboration centers result in an increased quantity of raw ideas and products, and of refined ideas and products.
3. Quality: They also support an increase in the quality of raw ideas and products, as well as refined ones.
4. Staff retention and recruiting: Staff retention and an increase in the ability to recruit top level staff is often a consequence of great facilities, where people can interact easily and effectively with one another.

First draft. To be revised

From Permanent Innovation - Langdon Morris

Permanent Innovation
The Definitive Guide to the Principles, Strategies, and Methods of
Successful Innovators
Langdon Morris

Langdon Morris is a co-founder and principal of InnovationLabs LLC and Senior Practice Scholar at the Ackoff Center of the University of Pennsylvania and Senior Fellow of the Economic Opportunities Program of the Aspen Institute.

Space 10 - Ikea funding an Independent Innovation Lab

MBA Core Management Knowledge - One Year Revision Schedule

Updated 24 Nov  2015, 27 Nov 2014

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