Innovation, strategy and values

Excavation for a High Rise Building. Photo Credit: Kelley Ramsey
Excavation for a High Rise Building. Photo Credit: Kelley Ramsey

In my country when something is being defined in an unwise way, we usually say that people are building the house from the roof. I have seen a lot of constructions of buildings, it is necessary to dig a great hole in the ground and then houses are built burying the pillars inside.

There are many people talking about innovation that have a lot of ideas and techniques to improve the innovation in every company, however, they forget many times that innovation is a strategic process to change the company. Innovation is a matter of strategic thinking instead of a matter of common procedures to promote creativity.

Classic strategy, like Porter’s one, suggests that innovation is a way (to be more precise, the best way) to define a strategy of differentiation, and it can be a way to support a strategy of cost leading. Innovation is not done because managers have an artistic feeling that makes them to create new thing every day, but due to there is a need to change the positioning of the company in order to guarantee the survival of the company in the future.

The deployment and execution of a strategy of innovation is a process of several years that will need the promotion of creativity and the implementation of many other techniques but the reason for that fact proceed from the strategy of the company.

The pillars buried into the ground in an innovative company are defined into the strategy of the company. The strategy is the ground where we are going to build the company and the columns buried into the ground would be the vision, the mission and the values of the company in the classic strategic planning sense. Vision, mission and values are the support of the new version of the company that we are trying to build.

We cannot establish an innovation process in a company that has not an innovative vision. It will be condemned to fail. For instance, we cannot promote creativity if the values of the company are not centered in people and merit. We cannot put the roof if the columns are not buried and fixed into the ground.

We can change the walls and the roof easily but we cannot change the columns. That is the reason why values must be properly chosen to have an innovative company. The change of values would imply a fundamental change in the strategy, namely, a new strategy.

Private businesses are not political parties. The values of the organization are selected in order to search for a certain aim instead of ideological beliefs, and this can change over time. Organizations can be redefined when the strategy changes, and any change requires a review of the values of the organization.

An organization without the proper values is an organization fragile. This can be thought in terms of complexity. Values provide uniformity and some degree of coordination to the actions of people at the organization. They reduce the uncertainty about the way of working of the organization, reducing the complexity of the organization. Management is easier.

When we are talking about innovation we must understand that some values can support innovation and other ones will not be doing it.

In order to provoke a reflection about this I am going to put a social example:

Western civilization has been very innovation prone. That is related to its values as freedom of thinking, however, in the last years, many people think that many values of our civilization are being lost and this has produced more complex and fragile societies. Our values are changing because governments have different visions about the future of our societies. The concept of Christian concept of freewill that was turned later in the support of freedom of thinking by our western societies is being substituted by other more Eastern.

Interventionism is growing in our societies and even it seems sometimes to be inspired in the Muslim societies instead of Christian ones. European societies consider odd that Muslim people cannot have an alcoholic drink; however, they are forbidding tobacco and they have been thinking about forbidding alcohol. European societies consider odd that Muslim women must wear a veil in order to protect them from undesired contacts with men; however, they have implemented laws that consider men intrinsically bad related to gender violence overriding the presumption of innocence. European societies consider odd that Muslim people do not eat pork meat; however, the World Health Organization recommends to avoid processed meats.

I am not going to judge the values of any social model. The question here is: Are we attending a change of social strategy where values that have shown to be more effective to promote innovation during many centuries are being considered less important by governments because they have other geopolitical priorities?

This is very important to be analyzed because people trying to innovate in a society that do not value it are only another source of additional complexity. They would be trying to build the house from the roof.


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