Innovation has been consistently found to be the most important characteristic associated with organisational and market success. Some companies are brilliant at innovation while others, for all their efforts, cannot sustainably deliver successful innovations. Why do some firms succeed while others fail? This paper proposes that sustainable innovation occurs when leaders and managers are able to break open their innovation search space by emphasising need pull innovations and harnessing the innovation energy of user- and customer-innovators; develop the strategic dynamic capabilities of values-based innovation culture and management system; and transition their management systems to “Managing by Sustainable Innovation Values” culture (MBSIV). With its three essential axes (economic-pragmatic, ethical-social, and emotional-developmental), MBSIV allows management to develop a values-based, high-involvement, performance-oriented innovation culture, which becomes a distinctive competency for the firm for delivering innovatory and competitive advantage.
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only thing constant is change.” Not only is change central to the universe, it is a central component in all human, organisational, and societal development: the child grows into the adult; the organisation strategically adapts in response to the influence of environmental forces; or, as a society shifts from a nomadic band of primitive hunter-gatherers to an egalitarian society, it becomes more complex and centralised, demanding more technology, innovation, governmental regulation, and leadership1. Change, too, is a vital aspect of science, which further associates the notion of change with energy. According to physics, energy is a property of all objects and is transferable among them via fundamental interactions. Energy can be converted, changed, into different forms, but it cannot be created or destroyed. Energy, too, may be lost, unavailable for work, which in turn is measured by entropy – normally viewed as a measure of the system’s disorder.i
Organisations, too, can be associated with notions of change and energy. Change serves as a catalyst for the successes and failures of 21st century organisations and societies that must withstand and even flourish in the midst of the risks associated with numerous economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, political, and technological transformations: un- and underemployment; the flair up of interstate conflicts; terrorism; the energy, fiscal, and water crises; profound social instability; large-scale voluntary migration; and critical information infrastructure breakdown2. Furthermore, the energy and vitality of individuals and organisations have been found to depend on the quality of the connections among people in the organisation and between organisational members and people outside the firm with whom they do business3. Research shows that organisational leaders can “spark” a unifying vitality and commitment among employees and unleash their firms’ potential for creativity, initiative, and innovation by developing, or uncovering, an organisation’s unique purpose4. Purpose is intimately connected to the values of both the organisations and its leaders and may be engendered by the use of values-driven leadership and management systems5. Entropy, too, may occur in organisations when self-organising living systems are ignored or when their strategies and cultures are not based on wholeness, interdependent relationships, open communication, shared information, shared values, and trust6.
Innovation, consistently found to be the most important characteristic associated with organisational and market success7, is also deeply rooted in the notions of change and energy. Innovators seek to change the status quo, exploring how to do something different or do something better, how to turn opportunity into new ideas and putting them into widely used practice8. They look for ideas from multitudes of sources that trigger the process of taking an idea forward, revising it, weaving its’ different strands of “knowledge spaghetti” and relational connections together towards a useful product, process, or service8.
Innovation is rooted in its own source of energy: innovation energy has been described as the ‘pattern’ behind successful innovation, which is the confluence of three forces: an individual’s attitude; a group’s behavioural dynamic; and the support an organisation provides for enabling innovation8(p.141). At the heart of innovation is the ability of leaders and managers to energise and engage the people of the firm –to get them fired up about the firm’s bold vision (right attitude), breaking established behaviour patterns so that people employ “right” innovation behaviours and create the “right” organisational support, environment, and leaders to powerfully fuel innovation energy8. Leaders generate, harness, and manage innovation through developing a values-based, high-involvement innovation environment, culture, and climate. They create a high-involvement innovation environment – a condition where everyone is fully involved in experimenting and improving things, in sharing knowledge, and in creating an active learning organisation – by building a shared set of sustainable innovation values that bind people together in the organisation and enable them to participate in its development, driving both incremental and radical innovations and maximising organisational performance8,9,10,11. A high-involvement innovation climate is characterised by emotional safety, respect, and joy derived through emotional support and shared decision-making, creative self-efficacy, reflection, open communication, and divergent thinking12.
This paper proposes three interrelated strategies for creating a high-involvement innovation environment, culture, and climate:
1.Break open the innovation search space by emphasising need pull innovations, harnessing and leveraging the innovation energy of user- and customer-innovators;
2. Recognise that developing a values-based innovation culture served by a values-based management system serves as a strategic dynamic capability for the firm that enables it to capitalise on its strategic human and innovation resources; and
3. Transition its management system to Managing by Sustainable Innovation Values (MBSIV) – a values- and innovation-based leadership tool that motivates innovation energy, enhances user- and customer-innovation, and address the many management challenges of the 21st century.
About the Authors
Dr. Kristine Marin Kawamura is an experienced and success-oriented global consultant, executive coach, scholar/author, educator, and visionary speaker. She is the founder and CEO of Yoomi Consulting Group, Inc. She is also a Visiting Adjunct Professor in Drucker-Ito School of Management in Claremont Graduate University.
Dr. Simon L. Dolan is currently the president of the Global Future of Work Foundation (www.globalfutureofwork.com). He used to be the Future of Work Chair at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, and before that he taught for many years at McGill and Montreal Universities (Canada), Boston and University of Colorado (U.S.). He is a prolific author with over 70 books on themes connected with managing people, culture reengineering, values and coaching. His full c.v. can be seen at: www.simondolan.com
i. See http://web.mit.edu/16.unified/www/FALL/thermodynamics/notes/node49.html.
ii. See Dolan and Garcia (2002); Earley, P. C. & Gibson, C. B. 2002. Multinational Teams: New Perspectives, Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Earlbaum Associates. and Dolan et al. (2006).
iii. Dolan S.L.(2006) Stress, Self-Esteem, Health and Work. Palgrave MacMillan.
iv. See http://www.google.com/about/company/philosophy/
v. See What every company can learn from Google´s company culture
vi.See the survey of Gallup for 2017 at: http://news.socialreacher.com/en/the-12-questions-from-the-gallup-q12-employee-engagement-survey/
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