Organizing for innovation

Published on March 31, 2024   9 min
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I'm Joe Tidd, and I am Professor of Technology and Innovation Management at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, UK. This session is about how we organize for innovation.
If we look at the evidence and practice on how we organize for innovation, we find that it's not a single component, but many. In this session I want to focus on the top three most important aspects. These are key individuals, diverse teams, and creative climate, and we discuss these in turn and then how they interact.
Key individuals. We tend to think of innovation, and particularly entrepreneurship as about a lone genius or entrepreneur, but what we're going to argue is that there are different individual roles that are critical to managing innovation.
Typically, it's more than a single lone genius, or an inventor, or an entrepreneur. In terms of organization for innovation, we find there's a range of key individuals, and these include innovation leadership, knowledge gatekeepers, and organization champion or sponsor. We'll discuss each of these in turn.
Innovation leadership is really about what works in what different contexts. What you find is that there is no one best leadership style for the purpose of innovation, that really is about what types of innovation and what types of people you're trying to manage. The key is you have to tailor leadership style to the type of innovation and the context in which it's being managed. There is no one best way.
The second type of individual that's critical are the so-called knowledge gatekeepers, and their job is to promote the flow and sharing of internal and external knowledge within the organization. Here's a bit of jargon. Communities of practice are people who interact naturally. They work together, or they work on similar things. That's easy. What's difficult is to get different communities of practice, different groups, and individuals to communicate with each other. The exchange of knowledge between communities of practice is a challenge, and that challenge is primarily dealt with by what we call a gatekeeper. There are different ways they manage this. Sometimes it's simply moving between these different communities, translators or brokers. Sometimes it's creating projects or objects, working together on something to build those bridges. Thirdly, actively seeking external partners, so-called open innovation.