Innovation is not an end; rather it’s the means to any given end…

This is what you might call the hammer squarely meeting the nail from  Christian Seelos & Johanna Mair in the Stanford Social Innovation Review:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  • Zig70

    yeah, and don’t waste time over thinking it, get pen/pencil to paper. The biggest choke on innovation that I see is attitude to risk. You have to take a calculated punt and you have to give people some rope. The other thing I think is missed is the market research at the start – is there any bankable point to it.

  • Don’t disagree with the thrust of the above ie an emphasis on the process rather than the outcome but innovation can also be a by product or a side effect. Such secondary impacts confirm evidence of a causal relationship which furthermore confirms innovation can be planned, predicted and delivered. A simple example would be say Mister Joe getting a round in at a pub (process), the five pints of Guinness the welcome result (outcome), the by product is an inn ovation as Joe puts his hand in his pocket.

  • andnowwhat

    I was way Ning Click on BBC 24 and it showed how the Thai’s reacted to last year’ awful floods. In a year they had a plasma based version of a sand bag that inflates when it gets wet ( light to transport and reusable ) and pontoon system for new builds.

  • Mister_Joe


    Thanks for the acknowledgement that I stood my round. I worked with one guy whose arms were reputed to be too short to reach into his pockets. When his turn came, we would all stare at him for 10 minutes, then we would call our wives or the taxi company and go home.

  • Hi Mister Joe , good man,

    For a whileI’d often go down the pub with a cousin. He never ever bought the first round, he’d pause to comb his hair at the entrance, he’d disappear to the toilet, get waylaid or whatever. Over the years it added up.

  • Mister_Joe

    Forgot to say that the “inn ovation” was a really clever pun.

  • andnowwhat

    Simplyfying that idea even further how about durable plastic bags with openable and closable necks which can be filled quickly with the very water that is threatening your property and then used as barricades Have to be done in concert and in a specific area by a huge number of people. Is it doable? More practical minds than me please advise.

  • Mick Fealty

    Disclosure. This should have gone on to the Slugger Consults site. Okay, on with my point.

    The private sector encourages innovation by killing off those companies who cannot keep up…

    Those who cannot innovate under the new terms of the market look for partners or smaller companies that will innovate and rejuvenate their larger (but slower footed brand)…

    So Nokia and Microsoft are partnering in an effort to catch Apple in the smartphone market… Not easy for the Finnish former giant of the mobile market to admit how far they were being outrun, but the imperative was adapt or die…

    Much harder in the public sector…

    Thus, the Green New Deal gets canned because it is too risky… There’s a good conversation Twitter about the efficacy of the new Boiler scheme… where Mark Prentice of Firmus Gas (sponsor of one of our big political breakfast events) notes that a new boiler can create savings of 40% heating costs (I’m pretty sure it would)…

    In addition they are putting up a further subsidy to those who are eligible for the administration’s grant of £1k through their #cozyhomes scheme…

    That’s, on the face of it, a pretty serious offer (I don’t what Phoenix are offering)…

    But the point of fact is that at heart of the Green New Deal was an instrument that would make improvements free at the point of delivery…

    I don’t know if it would have worked… But my back of a fag packet calculations are that even the offer by Firmus would leave anyone wanting a new boiler short by at least £500…

    It was dumped because government decided it could not manage the risk of the GND… The danger is that a measure aimed at tackling fuel poverty may now be ineffective in achieving that goal…

  • Mick

    Hi. I wondered where this article came from. Spent some time this morning reading the full article. It’s a good read and for me challenging.

    You’ll know from our conversations that we’re interested in social innovation in NI specifically in community and voluntary organisations and have just commissioned some participatory research from RSM McClure Watters working with The Young Foundation.

    I’ve noted a few points from the article which we need to take account of here.

    1. Many funding bodies demand innovation in proposals for support. Go out to speak to organisations and a constant refrain will be the continual need to reinvent and repackage core successful business as innovative in order to attract interest and support. However I often think they( funders) end up not funding innovation at all but facilitating mission drift in organisations which as the article highlights ” for organisations that have found a working model in a particular context, efforts toward predictable, incremental improvements – exploiting what an organization knows how to do well, rather than developing innovations , exploring new activities or creating new knowldege – may generate superior outcomes over time”

    I think the demand for innovation by funders may be the result in some cases of genuine efforts to encourage and support new ideas but more often than not may be as a result of personnel changes in assessors and decision makers and also the integration of the assumption that new is always better. There’s also the case that if funders haven’t considered their own theory of change – the outcomes and impact they want to see – then they’re likely to lose focus and look for the new thing as opposed to the one that works!

    2. Despite the above – there is value I think in exploring social innovation in NI now. There are a lot of support arrangements available for those organisations that do wish to perfect core routine activities over time. Support is available for third sector organisations to develop financial and managerial capabilities and thematically there has been a huge focus on quality standards in certain areas such as childcare over the past decade. the challenge often might be in supporting organisations to identify and take action to meet their core support needs in order to focus on meeting the needs of their beneficiaries.

    From my own perspective – supporting a realtively small Trust fund – The Building Change Trust with a limited life span I think it legitimate that we do consider what needs done to support and encourage social innovation – our funds are but a drop in the ocean in terms of either supporting business as usual and/or the long term needs of organisations for support for incremental improvement – that said I think we’ll be looking carefully at the 6 key factors as we think about what to do next!