Innovating on innovation models

Degrees of Freedom
Degrees of Freedom. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Management means control, a way to preserve the organization driven to the desired objectives. On the other hand, innovation means change, a new way to do the things.

With this scheme, what does innovation management mean? If we need to preserve control and to change simultaneously, does it mean schizophrenia? Of course, it does not.

Control and change are not so far situations. We need to control because we are in a permanent change. The need of control is consequence of change. The difference between innovation management and the management of any other activity is related to source of the change. In a common activity changes are produced by the environment or internal unexpected events, but in a strategic activity changes are mainly produced by us. Innovation is a strategic activity with some special characteristics. When we build a strategy we are envisioning the future and constructing some tactics to reach that future.

In a common strategic activity, those tactics can be deployed with known technologies or known working procedures, while for innovation we will need to build the tactics on new technologies or new working procedures. The level of uncertainty for the strategy to be successful is much higher.

Control mechanisms do not cope with uncertainty well always necessarily. This is an additional a problem for the innovation manager. He copes with this uncertainty following his own procedures and methodologies. There is a lot of knowledge and literature on ways to promote creativity, to evaluate ideas, to manage projects and to design products and processes and to introduce them in the markets. The selected methodologies to manage the activity are providing a model of innovation management that should be implemented through a certain real organization.

Every company is different, then, there will be different models that fit better the needs of different organizations. We are accustomed to hear consultants talking about certain innovation models that should be implemented at any organization. This is not the better way to focus the problem. If we think in technological innovation we can see that some people are recommending managing technological innovation through technologies instead of through products. The reason is that products must be designed thinking in the market demands, but new technologies can provide new solutions and even create new market demands.

This approach is good, and it can be applied for organizational innovations. My opinion is that we must not be worried about the implementation of organizational models of innovation but the analysis of innovation methodologies. The model must be built depending on the strategic demands of the organization.

The innovation manager must cope with the internal uncertainty (internal changes) of the organization and the external uncertainty (evolution of the markets) that moves the senior directorate to establish a new strategy. The innovation manager is not a visionary wise man who knows the solution for all the problems of the business world in a single sentence. He is an expert manager that knows and searches for different management tools that fit the needs of his organization to provide a service for the strategy of the senior management.

I have never been interested in implementing great innovation models but tools that can be useful for the aims of the senior directorate, however it is true that in the same way as there are horizontal technologies that fit well the needs of most companies, as IT technologies, there are horizontal methodologies for innovation management that can be useful for most organizations. Knowing them is an advantage for the innovation manager. On the other hand, it is true too, that knowing different innovation models can provide him ideas to build his own innovation model for his own organization.


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