Strategy

Is HR Sabotaging Your Innovation Efforts?

Re-post from LinkedIn from May 10, 2016

In today’s fast-paced, global economy, the traditional means of differentiation (land, capital and equipment) are becoming less differentiated and available equally to businesses large and small, old and new (Drucker, 1992; Friedman, 2006; Teece, 1998). This leaves the organization’s only means of differentiation the ability to combine undifferentiated resources together in unique ways … i.e. innovation (Lawson & Samson, 2001; Teece, 2011, 2012). Regardless of the approach to innovation you subscribe to (there are dozens, see Bowonder, Dambal, Kumar, & Shirodkar, 2010), the depth, breadth, and diversity of an organization’s people are significant antecedents to innovation success (Crook, Todd, Combs, Woehr, & Ketchen, 2011; Kim & Ployhart, 2014).  As a result, HR is a critical part of your innovation efforts.

Pre-employment assessments have been the principal tool used by HR to ensure the organization only hires the best and brightest. The use of pre-employment assessments by large U.S. organizations has increased from 26% in 2001, to 57% by 2013; eight of the top ten private employers use pre-employment testing for at least some of their positions (Weber, 2015). Unfortunately, as previously mentioned many of the traditional assessment tools have proven to be less reliable than flipping a coin when it comes to predicting future real-world performance. This realization has led to the increased use of psychological value assessments.  Value assessments attempt to match the values of prospective candidates with the value profiles of existing, high performing employees, essentially creating a way to find people who share the same values and perspectives of existing employees.  The idea is to find people who think and perform like existing top-performers. While these assessments may not be any better at predicting future performance, Weber reported on organizations reducing 90-day attrition rages from 41% to 12% in the span of only 3 years of use. Given the significant costs of hiring and training, this reduction in short-term attrition can be a significant savings for the organization. As the ease of utilizing these assessments continues to increase, the costs to utilize them decreases, they become increasingly difficult for HR organizations to ignore.

Surely, value assessments have benefit to the organization, but that value is no longer in the attracting and hiring “the best and the brightest”, and become the value of “culture” or “fit”. Even the validation of one of the most popular value assessments, the Hartman Value Profile (HVP), shows almost no correlation to real-world performance even when performance is subjectively evaluated by other members of the organization (Weathington & Roberts, 2005). Furthermore, making hiring decisions based on how well individuals “fit” within the existing organization seems at odds with the need for diverse knowledge and perspectives for effective innovation. While no one is arguing cultural “fit” is not an important aspect to collaboration and productivity, it is potentially dangerous to be seduced by the perceived benefits of values-based pre-employment assessments.

Innovation starts, and ends, with people. Decades of research demonstrate that successful innovation requires, not just the best and brightest, but also diversity in the perspectives and knowledge of those people. If everyone has the same perspective, values, and beliefs, it will be increasingly difficult to create anything “new”. If we compound this by not hiring the best and brightest (because we are more concerned with fit), the effects could be devastating.

Be wary about letting your HR practices sabotage your innovation efforts before they even get started.

References

Bowonder, B., Dambal, A., Kumar, S., & Shirodkar, A. (2010). Innovation strategies for creating competitive advantage. Research Technology Management, 53(3), 19–32. Retrieved from http://www.iriweb.org/

Crook, T. R., Todd, S. Y., Combs, J. G., Woehr, D. J., & Ketchen, D. J. J. (2011). Does human capital matter? A meta-analysis of the relationship between human capital and firm performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(3), 443–456. doi:10.1037/a0022147

Drucker, P. F. (1992). The post-capitalist world. Public Interest, 109(Fall 1992), 89–101. Retrieved from http://www.nationalaffairs.com/

Friedman, T. L. (2006). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kim, Y., & Ployhart, R. E. (2014). The effects of staffing and training on firm productivity and profit growth before, during, and after the Great Recession. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(3), 361–89. doi:10.1037/a0035408

Lawson, B., & Samson, D. (2001). Developing innovation capability in organisations: A dynamic capabilities approach. International Journal of Innovation Management, 5(3), 377. doi:10.1142/s1363919601000427

Teece, D. J. (1998). Capturing value from knowledge assets: The new economy, markets for know-how, and intangible assets. California Management Review, 40(3), 55–79. doi:10.2307/41165943

Teece, D. J. (2011). Dynamic capabilities: A guide for managers. Ivey Business Journal Online, 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/

Teece, D. J. (2012). Dynamic Capabilities: Routines versus entrepreneurial action. Journal of Management Studies, 49(8), 1395–1401. Retrieved from 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01080.x

Weathington, B. L., & Roberts, D. P. (2005). Validation analysis of the Hartman Value Profile. Retrieved from http://www.hartmaninstitute.org/

Weber, L. (2015). Today’s personality tests raise the bar for job seekers. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com

Diversity is not just a social issue, it is an economic one.

The problem with treating diversity as only a social-justice issue is that social issues rarely get solved without demonstrating how they indirectly affect all people, not just the disenfranchised.  All you must do is look at the history of social corporate responsibility (CSR) to see this effect (O’Toole & Vogel, 2011).  CSR was treated with mostly lip-service until two things were demonstrably clear in the marketplace: 1) consumer trends were changing to favor organizations demonstrating CSR principles; and, 2) CSR (or sustainable) practices made economic sense by reducing waste, improving operations, and elevating brand.  While the messaging is about being socially conscious, CSR business models can lead to competitive differentiation, which leading to profits. The only real academic argument against CSR is the implied altruistic nature of most CSR proponents; every corporation engaging in CSR generates either direct or indirect economic profit from those actions, meaning CSR is nothing more than “enlightened self-interest” (Smith, 2003).  As much as we should care about social issues, until they affect us directly, critical mass is not achieved towards solving them.

Diversity is no different.  We, as a collective species, should promote diversity (religious, nationality, sex, age, values, etc.) simply because it is ethical and just. However, because of the numerous permutations of bias, no single group of disenfranchised gains sufficient support to make true change solely on the basis of justice.   Unless we can demonstrate how biases affect everyone, progress will remain slow, or non-existent.  The best way to combat isses of diversity is through developing the enlightened self-interest of the greater society.

Fortunately, there is tremendous support that diversity is the key to economic profit and productivity benefiting everyone, including those who are not victims of bias.  It is no accident that our national headlines, business articles, and social commentary are inundated with stories about both diversity as well as innovation.  These two concepts are intimately conjoined. Without diversity of experience, thought, and perspective, innovation does not happen; without innovation, society will no longer grow and prosper, but decline.  This affects everyone.

Innovation is the only true competitive differentiator in today’s world economy (Drucker, 1992; Friedman, 2006; Salchow Jr., 2016; Teece, 1998, 2004). Whether the innovation is a means to increase organizational efficiency, develop new business models, or an innovative product, the days of competing solely on accumulated land, capital, equipment, or market dominance are long over.  Those who don’t innovate, fail in the long-run. This affects people, companies, communities, and countries not just certain individuals. The inability to adapt to the global economy has decimated entire regions in the U.S. from miners, to steal producers, to manufacturers.   The number of companies and individuals directly affected is miniscule to the number of companies, individuals, and communities that have collapsed indirectly from these failures.  Lack of innovation capability affects us all.

Yet, we know that diversity in perspective, knowledge, experience, and capabilities is a foundation of innovation (Gladis, 2017). We know that diversity drives innovation (Niebuhr, 2010; Parrotta, Pozzoli, & Pytlikova, 2014), and creates economic rents, productivity, and success (Beck & Walmsley, 2012; Crook, Todd, Combs, Woehr, & Ketchen, 2011; Kim & Ployhart, 2014). Without diversity, we cannot hope to innovate because innovation is all about seeing things from a different perspective, a different value structure, a different life experience, a different cognitive lens.  It is through exploring and evaluating these differences that we see new possibilities, new solutions, and new ways of moving forward as companies, communities, and societies.  Diversity forces us to challenge what we think we know, and that leads to innovation.

It is sad that at a time when collaboration and access to diverse perspectives is so easy, we have instead taken to divisiveness, to segregation. We seek the illusionary safety of the known and miss the forest for the trees that don’t look, act, talk, or believe like us.  However, if we fail to see how diversity is an asset, not a liability, we fail our society. We fail, not because we violate the social contract, but because we will bankrupt society.  We fail by succumbing to what we believe is, rather than seeing what could be.  Without innovation, driven by diversity, we become static and eventually decline (Second Law of Thermodynamics anyone?).

Diversity is an economic imperative, not just a social one. The best way to secure your own future, is to seek out and embrace diversity. It is in our own self-interest.

References

Beck, J. W., & Walmsley, P. T. (2012). Selection ratio and employee retention as antecedents of competitive advantage. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 5(1), 92–95. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1754-9434.2011.01410.x

Crook, T. R., Todd, S. Y., Combs, J. G., Woehr, D. J., & Ketchen, D. J. J. (2011). Does human capital matter? A meta-analysis of the relationship between human capital and firm performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(3), 443–456. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0022147

Drucker, P. F. (1992). The post-capitalist world. Public Interest, 109(Fall 1992), 89–101. Retrieved from http://www.nationalaffairs.com/

Friedman, T. L. (2006). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Gladis, S. (2017). The Formula for Achieving Innovation. TD: Talent Development, (February).

Kim, Y., & Ployhart, R. E. (2014). The effects of staffing and training on firm productivity and profit growth before, during, and after the Great Recession. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(3), 361–89. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0035408

Niebuhr, A. (2010). Migration and innovation: Does cultural diversity matter for regional R&D activity? Papers in Regional Science, 89(3), 563–585. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1435-5957.2009.00271.x

O’Toole, J., & Vogel, D. (2011). Two and a half cheers for conscious capitalism. California Management Review, 53(3), 60–76. http://doi.org/10.1525/cmr.2011.53.3.60

Parrotta, P., Pozzoli, D., & Pytlikova, M. (2014). The nexus between labor diversity and firm’s innovation. Journal of Population Economics, 27(2), 303–364. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-013-0491-7

Smith, H. J. (2003). The shareholders vs. stakeholders debate. MIT Sloan Management Review, 44(4), 85–90. Retrieved from http://sloanreview.mit.edu/

Teece, D. J. (1998). Capturing value from knowledge assets: The new economy, markets for know-how, and intangible assets. California Management Review, 40(3), 55–79. http://doi.org/10.2307/41165943

Teece, D. J. (2004). Knowledge and competence as strategic assets. Handbook on Knowledge Management 1: Knowledge Matters, 40(3), 129–152. http://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-24746-3_7

The Innovation Strategy Framework

Innovation is critical to creating and maintaining a competitive advantage in the modern business environment. Organizational leaders must find ways to combine undifferentiated resources to create differentiated products and services (Lawson & Samson, 2001; Teece, 2011, 2012).  These dynamic capabilities require constant innovation to create new value for the organization as well as the organization’s customers.  Innovation is the driver of delivering sustained competitive advantage.

Innovation is not a simple construct. Innovation means multiple things depending on the context (Costello & Prohaska, 2013). Also, numerous, competing models have shown to be capable of creating successful innovation (Bowonder et al., 2010).  This plethora of conceptualizations and models leaves organizational leadership with little practical guidance and contributes to confusion on how to achieve competitive advantage through innovation. The reality is that innovation is a varied, complex concept that encompasses many components.  It is not even easy to identify whether innovation has taken place, because the ultimate litmus test to successful innovation is how it is received in the marketplace, not how it was conceived or executed.  Rather than focusing on specific definitions or models, organizational leaders require enumeration of the basic building blocks fostering innovative capabilities and guidelines on how to orchestrate them for success.

By studying organizations consistently demonstrating serial innovation success, we do know that successful innovation all relies on some basic building blocks.  Putting these building blocks together into an overarching framework allows for infinite variability in discovery, experimentation, failure, and success and is a good place to start understanding innovation as an organizational capability.

The Innovation Strategy Framework

The innovation strategy framework accounts for the key factors identified as critical to innovation success: knowledge resources, processes, metrics (monitoring), and culture (including leadership).   Figure 1 graphically depicts how the innovation success factors fit together as a composite framework.

InnovationModel

The Innovation Strategy Framework

Knowledge Resources:

Knowledge resources include the customers, ecosystem partners, and employees that generate innovative ideas, select appropriate ideas, promote the ideas, and ultimately create innovative solutions.  White boxes in Figure 1 represent the people involved in innovation.  On one side are the heterogeneous sources of knowledge providing innovative ideas and solutions.  These resources are both internal and external, creating the depth, breadth, and diversity of knowledge to supply the organization with innovative fuel (Dell’Era & Verganti, 2010; Phelps, 2010; Rothaermel & Hess, 2010).  On the other side, strategic domains are the knowledge resources responsible for taking innovative ideas and developing them in alignment with organizational goals and strategy (Ramírez, Roodhart, & Manders, 2011).  At the top, leadership develops knowledge networks, provides resources to create innovation processes, and the creation, funding, and direction of strategic domain groups (Brown & Anthony, 2011; Engel & Del-Palacio, 2011; Ramírez et al., 2011; Rufat-Latre, Muller, & Jones, 2010).

Innovation Processes:

Processes include both the processes used to integrate, promote, and develop innovative solutions, as well as the processes necessary to manage and monitor the innovation process.  Black boxes in Figure 1 represent the processes for the generation and development of innovation.  Following the definitions of agile innovation, the processes differ based on the type of knowledge necessary, including attracting, foraying, and experiencing (Wilson & Doz, 2011). Wilson and Doz recommended these be viewed as interactive and iterative depending on the innovation and the organizational need.  Ideation using VC’s (attracting), might require rapid prototyping (Sandmeier et al., 2010; Tuulenmäki & Välikangas, 2011) using direct engagement (foraying), or the development of dedicated innovation teams embedded in remote locations (experiencing). These well-defined approaches formalize the interaction of strategic domains and innovation contributors.  Processes designed to manage the innovation pipeline monitor these interactions.

Measuring Innovation Efforts:

The innovation pipeline in Figure 1 represents the process for managing and monitoring the innovation process.  While the specific measures implemented by any organization will be unique and should not be the same for every class of innovation project, organizational leaders must ensure every process and project has specific measures enabling appropriate management (Chen & Muller, 2010).  Chen and Muller also recommended measures related to the overall revenue and profit growth attributed to innovation, projected value of the innovation pipeline if all projects are successful, and evaluation of the pipeline status.  Measures of the actual profit growth and revenue promote accountability for overall innovation efforts, while the projected value of the innovation pipeline requires the evaluation of each project in terms of expected long-term benefit; project projections also allow for organizational prioritization.  Finally, measures of pipeline status, provide overall monitoring of organization innovation success by measuring the size of the innovation network, the number of ideas making it through each stage of the process, and how quickly innovative solutions reach the market.

Leadership and Innovation Culture:

Finally, effective leadership includes the support, development, and direction of innovation efforts to create an organizational culture built to achieve innovative success.  Gray arrows in Figure 1 represent the actions promoting innovation within the organization.  Knowledge resources are encouraged to participate in innovation development through the development of shared value (Hammon & Hippner, 2012; Lee, Olson, & Trimi, 2012; Schröder & Hölzle, 2010).  Strategic domain groups support the processes of attracting, foraying, and experiencing as a source for both innovative ideas, as well as the knowledge to develop ideas into marketable solutions promoting the organization’s strategic goals (Angelis, Macintyre, Dhaliwal, Parry, & Siraliova, 2011; Sandmeier et al., 2010; Tuulenmäki & Välikangas, 2011).  Leadership develops the organization’s knowledge network and provides the resources required by the strategic domains to engage those knowledge resources. (Brown & Anthony, 2011; Ramírez et al., 2011; Rufat-Latre et al., 2010).  These actions develop a culture where innovation supported, and embraced as a way of doing business.

Putting it all Together

The innovation strategy framework incorporates the principal factors identified to promote organizational innovation success.  Successful innovation requires depth, breadth, and diversity of the organization’s knowledge network, and the internal capabilities to identify, select, promote, and develop innovative solutions.  Organizations must have appropriate processes to integrate the knowledge from the knowledge network, as well as the capabilities to appropriately monitor and manage the innovation process.  The development of the knowledge network, the appropriate processes and the integration of innovation and strategy is the job of organizational leadership directly by example and indirectly through investment.  The innovation strategy framework represents a high-level approach to innovation strategy without making explicit definitions of innovation or requiring specific models for innovation.  The innovation strategy framework presents a holistic view of innovation, not as any specific innovation model, but as basic building blocks capable of delivering innovation in any dimension.

The value in a generic innovation strategy framework is in evaluating an organization’s overall capabilities and deficiencies for achieving innovation success as well as guiding how those critical innovation resources need to interact.  There are dozens of models to develop different types of innovative outcomes (Bowonder, Dambal, Kumar, & Shirodkar, 2010), but organizations lacking the basic building blocks of people, processes, and organizational commitment are unlikely to be successful applying any of them (Christensen & Overdorf, 2000).  Christensen and Overdorf specifically called out resources, processes, and organizational values as the principal factors keeping organizations from surviving disruptive innovation, not a lack of ideas or choice of innovative response.  Long before organizations choose the appropriate innovation approaches, organizations must be primed to be successful.  The innovation strategy framework provides a means of evaluating an organization’s readiness for innovation success and guidance for improving an organization’s chance for future success.

 

References

Angelis, J., Macintyre, M., Dhaliwal, J., Parry, G., & Siraliova, J. (2011). Customer centered value creation. Issues of Business and Law, 3(1), 11–19. http://doi.org/10.2478/v10088-011-0002-8

Bowonder, B., Dambal, A., Kumar, S., & Shirodkar, A. (2010). Innovation strategies for creating competitive advantage. Research Technology Management, 53(3), 19–32. Retrieved from http://www.iriweb.org/

Brown, B., & Anthony, S. D. (2011). How P&G tripled its innovation success rate. Harvard Business Review, 89(6), 64–72. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/

Chen, G., & Muller, A. (2010). Measuring innovation from different perspectives. Employment Relations Today, 37(1), 1–8. http://doi.org/10.1002/ert.20279

Christensen, C. M., & Overdorf, M. (2000). Meeting the challenge of disruptive change. Harvard Business Review, 78(2), 66–76. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/

Costello, T., & Prohaska, B. (2013). Innovation. IT Professional, 15(3), 64–66. Retrieved from http://www.computer.org/

Dell’Era, C., & Verganti, R. (2010). Collaborative strategies in design-intensive industries: Knowledge diversity and innovation. Long Range Planning, 43(1), 123–141. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.lrp.2009.10.006

Engel, J. S., & Del-Palacio, I. (2011). Global clusters of innovation: The case of Israel and Silicon Valley. California Management Review, 53(2), 27–49. http://doi.org/10.1525/cmr.2011.53.2.27

Hammon, L., & Hippner, H. (2012). Crowdsourcing. Business & Information Systems Engineering, 4(3), 1–166. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12599-012-0215-7

Lawson, B., & Samson, D. (2001). Developing innovation capability in organisations: A dynamic capabilities approach. International Journal of Innovation Management, 5(3), 377. http://doi.org/10.1142/s1363919601000427

Lee, S. M., Olson, D. L., & Trimi, S. (2012). Co-innovation: Convergenomics, collaboration, and co-creation for organizational values. Management Decision, 50(5), 817–831. http://doi.org/10.1108/00251741211227528

Phelps, C. C. (2010). A longitudinal study of the influence of alliance network structure and composition on firm exploratory innovation. Academy of Management Journal, 53(4), 890–913. http://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2010.52814627

Ramírez, R., Roodhart, L., & Manders, W. (2011). How Shell’s domains link innovation and strategy. Long Range Planning, 44(4), 250–270. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.lrp.2011.04.003

Rothaermel, F. T., & Hess, A. M. (2010). Innovation strategies combined. MIT Sloan Management Review, 51(3), 13–15. Retrieved from http://sloanreview.mit.edu/

Rufat-Latre, J., Muller, A., & Jones, D. (2010). Delivering on the promise of open innovation. Strategy & Leadership, 38(6), 23–28. http://doi.org/10.1108/10878571011088032

Sandmeier, P., Morrison, P. D., & Gassmann, O. (2010). Integrating customers in product innovation: Lessons from industrial development contractors and in-house contractors in rapidly changing customer markets. Creativity and Innovation Management, 19(2), 89–106. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8691.2010.00555.x

Schröder, A., & Hölzle, K. (2010). Virtual communities for innovation: Influence factors and impact on company innovation. Creativity and Innovation Management, 19(3), 257–268. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8691.2010.00567.x

Teece, D. J. (2011). Dynamic capabilities: A guide for managers. Ivey Business Journal Online, 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/

Teece, D. J. (2012). Dynamic Capabilities: Routines versus entrepreneurial action. Journal of Management Studies, 49(8), 1395–1401. Retrieved from 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01080.x

Tuulenmäki, A., & Välikangas, L. (2011). The art of rapid, hands-on execution innovation. Strategy & Leadership, 39(2), 28–35. http://doi.org/10.1108/10878571111114446

Wilson, K., & Doz, Y. L. (2011). Agile innovation: A footprint balancing distance and immersion. California Management Review, 53(2), 6–26. http://doi.org/10.1525/cmr.2011.53.2.6

The Building Blocks of Innovation

Innovation is not simple to achieve.  Not only is innovation difficult to distinctly define (Costello & Prohaska, 2013), there are numerous, competing frameworks proclaimed as being successful in creating effective innovation practices (Bowonder, Dambal, Kumar, & Shirodkar, 2010).  The litany of successful innovation conceptualizations leaves organizational leadership with little practical guidance in developing credible innovation strategy.  The result is the failure of most organizations in developing successful innovation practices (Rufat-Latre, Muller, & Jones, 2010).

What’s missing is an overarching framework integrating the various definitions of innovation, the different ways to achieve innovation, and the basic components necessary to achieve sustained innovation success.  While many authors have proposed innovation cookbooks purporting recipes for success, what is really needed is an innovation playbook: a set of resources that can be deployed in response to dynamic changes in organizational position and competitive reaction.  Here is an overview of the building blocks providing the foundation of the innovation playbook.

The Elements of Innovation Strategy

Successful innovation relies on the development of knowledge resources, processes, and an organizational commitment to innovation.  Knowledge resources comprise the employees, ecosystem partners, and customers that become the source of innovation ideation and development (Engel & Del-Palacio, 2011; Phelps, 2010; Rothaermel & Hess, 2010; Wilson & Doz, 2011).  In addition to the people necessary to generate innovation, organizations must have the processes to manage the integration of knowledge into the organization, the development of innovative ideas, and the means to manage innovation outcomes (Birkinshaw, Bouquet, & Barsoux, 2010; Rothaermel & Hess, 2010; Wilson & Doz, 2011).  Finally, organizational commitment towards developing knowledge resources, creating appropriate processes, and directing innovation efforts is necessary to create sustained innovation (Brown & Anthony, 2011; Engel & Del-Palacio, 2011; Ramírez, Roodhart, & Manders, 2011; Sandmeier, Morrison, & Gassmann, 2010).  Regardless of the innovation definition, or framework, the people, processes, and culture of the organization are critical requirements for building an innovation strategy.

Knowledge Wanted Here!

Successful innovation depends on the availability of vast, diverse knowledge resources to provide ideation and successful development of innovation.  The depth and breadth of the knowledge encapsulated in the employees, ecosystem partners, and customers of an organization have been linked to positive innovation outcomes (Dell’Era & Verganti, 2010; Kim & Ployhart, 2014; Phelps, 2010; Rothaermel & Hess, 2010; Sandmeier et al., 2010; Wilson & Doz, 2011).  Phelps reported the correlation between the depth and breadth of an organization’s knowledge network and innovation success; organizations with expansive knowledge networks achieved outsized innovative success.  Dell’Era and Verganti found similar correlations with the diversity of design knowledge and innovative success in design-intensive industries.  Sandmeier et al. identified the frequency and diversity of customer involvement in new product development as a catalyst to innovative outcomes.  Regardless of the perspective of innovation success, or the specific knowledge being integrated, successful innovation is consistently correlated with access to expansive knowledge resources through diverse sources.  Only Rothaermel and Hess suggested limits on the benefits of knowledge diversity and density and suggested the need to manage knowledge resources to achieve the greatest net effect.  In short, Rothaermel and Hess proposed the need for processes to identify the best knowledge resources, coordinate the development of innovation, and measure success effectively.

Some Processing Required

Processes for selecting, promoting, and executing innovative ideas are critical to innovative strategy.  Knowledge resources have differing value, and organizations must understand the differences to coordinate innovation effectively (Mahroeian & Forozia, 2012; Wilson & Doz, 2011).  Wilson and Doz identified a continuum of knowledge classifications from explicit to embedded, to existential (or tacit).  Each of these knowledge resources requires unique processes and systems for effective utilization by the organization.  Wilson and Doz also suggested the amount of effort required to utilize knowledge resources was directly proportional to the unique value of the knowledge gained.  Explicit knowledge, which can be easily codified and transferred via virtual communities (VCs) and crowdsourcing solutions, is also more easily acquired by competitors minimizing the unique value (Hammon & Hippner, 2012; Schröder & Hölzle, 2010; Shepherd, 2012).  On the other end of the spectrum, tacit knowledge requires significant effort to understand and experience, but prevents simple duplication (Mahroeian & Forozia, 2012; Wilson & Doz, 2011).  Organizational leaders must understand the use of varying processes appropriate to the knowledge needs of the organization and when to apply them throughout the process.  This knowledge contributes to an organization’s innovation competencies (Šebestová & Rylková, 2011).  Innovation management processes inform the development of these innovative competencies.  Yet, fully developing an organizations knowledge networks requires more than just process, it requires a culture ready to use it.

A Culture of Innovation

Successful innovation also requires an organizational commitment to the innovation process.  Failed innovation attempts are not only likely, that are inevitable (McGrath, 2011).  McGrath proposed developing an organizational approach embracing the inevitability of failure by building processes designed to learn from small failures to avoid large failures; i.e. fail small, fail fast. Proposing the acceptance of failure is a clear example of the import of organizational commitment to innovation and the need for leadership to build a culture that values the innovative process, including the inherent occurance of failure (Rufat-Latre et al., 2010).  Rufat-Latre et al. argued the development of successful innovation efforts was not a simple action, but an iterative process of developing a culture appreciative of, and committed to, developing innovative capabilities.  Organizational leadership is required to support initiatives inviting innovation from outside of the organization, implementing iterative innovation processes embracing failure, developing the organizational capabilities to innovate, and provide guidance on innovative efforts (Brown & Anthony, 2011; Ramírez et al., 2011).  Brown and Anthony, as well as Ramírez et al., highlighted the importance of effective leadership to financially support and direct innovation efforts as strategic and necessary practices within the organization.  Besides direct investment in the process of innovation, leadership is the critical link between organizational strategy and innovation (Bodley-scott, 2011; Ramírez et al., 2011).  Without this connection, innovation will not be directed towards the value that benefits the organization.

Measure for Success

Guiding an organization’s innovative process is a critical factor in developing innovative capabilities.  For innovative organizations, dashboards provide both the ability to gauge successful processes, as well as uncover unique opportunities (Mullins & Komisar, 2011).  Mullins and Komisar suggested dashboards, traditionally used to help keep an organization on track, could help innovators discover opportunities to innovate business processes.  When traditional metrics suggest existing methods are deviating, it could signal changes in the business environment and forewarn of shifts in market dynamics.  These warning signs provide leaders with better means to sense opportunities for capturing value before competitors (Teece, 2012).  At the same time, choosing appropriate measures to manage and measure overall innovation capabilities are also critical to building repeatable innovation practices (Brown & Anthony, 2011; Chen & Muller, 2010).  Chen and Muller presented a general approach to measuring innovation system performance using three primary criteria: innovation contribution to revenue and profit growth, the value of the innovation pipeline, and the quality of the innovation pipeline.  Brown and Anthony documented similar approaches used to increase the proportion of innovative successes.  Fully understanding the health of the innovation process is particularly important as, contrary to general belief, innovation is not stymied by lack of ideas, but an inability to select and promote good ideas (Birkinshaw et al., 2010).  Analyzing the innovation pipeline provides leadership the ability to prioritize innovation efforts, as well as pinpoint where innovation efforts are becoming restrained.

Innovation Building Blocks Summarized

The literature consistently highlights people, process, and organizational commitment as critical factors for successful innovation.  Broad, diverse knowledge resources increase the breadth of innovative solutions available to the organization.  Developing the processes appropriate to identify, integrate, and develop innovative ideas, as well as manage the innovation pipeline promote the development of an organization’s overall innovative capabilities.  Organizational commitment provides the resources, guidance, and culture required to innovate successfully, through the direct engagement of leadership in creating an organization valuing and promoting innovation.  People, processes, and effective innovation leadership constitute the building blocks for innovation strategy.

These building blocks are the foundation of the innovation playbook.

 

References

Birkinshaw, J., Bouquet, C., & Barsoux, J. (2010). The 5 myths of innovation. MITSloan Management Review, 52(2), 43–50. Retrieved from http://sloanreview.mit.edu/

Bodley-scott, S. (2011). Linking innovation to strategy. Training Journal, (March), 64–67. Retrieved from http://www.trainingjournal.com/

Bowonder, B., Dambal, A., Kumar, S., & Shirodkar, A. (2010). Innovation strategies for creating competitive advantage. Research Technology Management, 53(3), 19–32. Retrieved from http://www.iriweb.org/

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Why you want to, but won’t, hire a Versatilist

The quality of an organization’s human capital is more important today than at any time before.  Global, dynamic markets eradicate the competitive advantages of capital, equipment, and land (Drucker, 1992; Friedman, 2006; Hayton, 2005; Teece, 2011).  Today, differentiation comes from combining undifferentiated inputs and resources in unique ways (Dutta, 2012; Reeves & Deimler, 2011; Teece, 2007, 2011, 2012; Teece, Pisano, & Shuen, 1997). As such, the source of competitive differentiation and strategic value is not having superior resources, but the skill and knowledge necessary to innovate.  One way to describe this organizational ability is dynamic capabilities (Teece, 2012). Dynamic capabilities characterize the organizational ability to sense and seize new opportunities and transform the organization, maintaining a competitive position.  Organizations with strong dynamic capabilities change and adapt to dynamic markets, are strong innovators, and build lasting strategic differentiation.  The only place this knowledge and skill resides is within the individuals working for the organization: human capital (Blair, 2002; Ployhart, Nyberg, Reilly, & Maltarich, 2014).

If we take the notion of dynamic capabilities and apply it to a person, instead of an organization, you get versatilists.  Versatilists are wired to sense and seize new opportunities, leverage new skills and abilities, and innovate who and what they are.  They are always changing and adapting to the world around them to become experts in new areas.  They don’t have access to different knowledge or methods of learning than other people, but they combine them in new ways to create new versions of themselves.  If organizations need dynamic capabilities to innovate and be successful, who better than versatilists to drive that effort.  This is why organizations should identify and recruit versatilists as employees.

Unfortunately, current recruiting and hiring strategies are ill aligned to this goal. Just look at your average Sr. level job description: 5 -7 years doing one thing with 10+ years in the same industry, with the same focus; another: 10 years in this job role, plus 5 years in specific industry. The job descriptions go on to list several dozen areas of knowledge and experience necessary to be considered a good fit.  These descriptions will use terms like “successful track record of”, “expertise in”, and “demonstrated experience with”. While this likely doesn’t sound out of place to many, especially those in HR and recruiting, it puts the job in a nice, little box tied with a bow.  The versatilists will rarely look twice for a couple of reasons.

First off, after 5-7 years doing the same thing, most versatilists are ready for the next challenge, not the next opportunity to do the same thing. The industry experience is less of an issue (although it’s still a bad way to get new ideas into your organization).  Versatilists don’t just adapt and change because of external forces; we’re not forced to go down a different path. We choose to do new things in new ways. There is an internal drive to know more, to do more, and to do it better.  Once a versatilists has become an expert in a role, we see little opportunity for growth, either personal or professional, and are naturally attracted to the next opportunity.

Second, unlike a generalist who tends to oversell their experience, versatilists, having become experts, generally undersell.  This is the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action (Dunning, Johnson, Ehrlinger, & Kruger, 2003; Kruger & Dunning, 1999).  According to this research, people tend to estimate their knowledge on any topic as at, or slightly above average.  Those with the least amount of actual knowledge overestimate grossly what they know (and don’t know they are doing it).  However, this works with experts as well, who underestimate their knowledge by assuming it is also just at, or slightly above average (this is sometimes referred to as imposter syndrome).  Because versatilists become experts in each of their chosen areas, even if you ask for “expertise” in that specific area, they will not feel qualified generally. This is further compounded when the job description suggests the candidate should be competent in dozens of areas.

Consequently, organizations limit their ability to hire versatilists the minute they draft a job description, making themselves unattractive to the very human capital they should really want.  Organizations cannot become innovative or develop dynamic capabilities, and yet hire based on check boxes and job descriptions of what the job has always been.  Instead, organizations should be hiring the people that can adapt and change the job to what it needs to be tomorrow.  Unless you change the way you recruit and hire, you’re more likely to hire someone without the skills you thought you needed and no capacity to develop the skills you really need.

 

References

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