Atlantis Spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

Atlantis Spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

In every modern organization the deployment of any strategy is driven by policies. Policies establish a general guidance of action to develop any important activity in an organization. They start from the organizational values and the desired objectives that the action must reach. They establish a framework to define the proper working procedures. While procedures provide a defined path of action, policies put limits to the final path only.

Policies in a business organization are not based in ideologies as social policies. They are usually based in paradigms. Paradigm is a theory or a set of theories that have a basement or model that is accepted and not questioned and it provides a framework to develop activities following reason. A change of the paradigm is produced when science demolishes the model and then it is substituted by a different one. In the same way as ideologies are a matter of faith, paradigms have need of faith in the authority of someone that proposed the model; however, it is easier to change paradigms than ideologies. Ideologies are usually based in a vision of a better future organization and paradigms are based in a perception of how the current organization actually works. Our perception of the present can be changed through additional data while our desires about the future cannot be changed so easily.

As business organizations has mostly economic objectives instead of social ones, business organizations tend to be driven as a technocracy where paradigms are supported by the authority of the senior directorate. On the other hand, social policies totally based on paradigms instead of ideologies would drive to a perfect social technocracy.

Innovation policies are a special kind of business policies because the innovation activity is searching for a better future for the organization. The vision of a different future can drive the innovation activity instead of the perception of the way followed by the organization that can be optimized by the development of new products and processes.

In a healthy organization these two different concepts are present, and it is very important to preserve a line marking the border between envisioning the future and paradigm although sometimes this line can be very thin.

The difference implies that we can try to change the market with technological innovations or we can try to develop technological innovation to satisfy market needs. The former option would be based on our vision of the future market and the latter one would be based on our perception of what market really needs although sometimes it does not know it.

For instance, about thinking that every family should have a PC computer at home: Was it a vision or a change of paradigm?

In any case, related to innovation policies this is not important. Innovation policies are related to how innovation activity is organized inside the business instead of the innovation itself. An example of innovation policy would be to define what kind of ideas about new products can be chosen and this is usually done following a paradigm. Senior directorate usually has a theory about what kind of ideas finally works, what kind of ideas produces a higher benefit and what is ratio of risk that can be accepted for the activity, that let them to decide a certain portfolio of products. Innovation consultants have several models of it, and the most common is usually known as the current paradigm about innovation.

In large organizations, innovation policies usually are paradigm-based while innovation itself can be vision-based.