This is what you might call the hammer squarely meeting the nail from Christian Seelos & Johanna Mair in the Stanford Social Innovation Review:
- Treat innovation as a process, not primarily as an outcome. Efforts to explicitly link the characteristics and dynamics of organizational innovation to its consequences provide valuable evidence for decision making and enable organizations to identify areas for productive support as well as to fine-tune interventions and resource provision strategies.
- Treat innovation as an independent variable, and reflect on multiple positive and negative outcomes during the innovation process. The focus on innovation within organizations enables an accurate assessment of the internal and external dimension of value created by innovation activities.
- Recognize that innovation processes integrate different organizational and external factors. These factors include individuals (e.g., idea creation), groups (e.g., idea evaluation), organizations (e.g., resource allocation and formalization of new activities), and contexts (e.g., external power structures or collaboration partners). Evaluating innovation requires consideration of several levels of analysis concurrently.
- Understand the prevailing cognitive, normative, and political dimensions within organizations to determine how they might enable or stifle innovation. This could allow younger organizations to better monitor and suppress emerging negative innovation factors and increase their learning and innovation capacity. And it could allow more mature organizations to develop more focused organizational redesigns, to rejuvenate processes, and to legitimize tough but necessary decisions.
- Capture insights from successful and unsuccessful innovations in organizations over time. This approach to social innovation trumps prevailing approaches that generalize innovation factors based on static snapshots across organizations or based on single observations of innovation events. It also tests for the presence or absence of an important enabler of innovation: organizational learning.
- Reflect on the differences in innovation processes, influencing factors, and outcomes across different cultures and geographies rather than on general innovation factors. We know very little about such innovation-related factors as creativity, idea evaluation, and learning in organizations as they apply to non-Western settings.