Innovation In the Social Era

About a year ago, a blogger I had never met posted something online that he called “An Innovation Matrix”. I thought the blogger had a really original idea — something that took innovation both deeper and beyond the Blue Ocean thesis. I encouraged him, certainly guided him, and — every now and then — challenged him. We kept collaborating because of our shared interest, ultimately meeting in person (he lives on another continent!) and going deeper into the topic.

Today, the Innovation Matrix is on Rev 4. And my colleague, Tim, shares his most recent framing. Go check it out in his latest post. It is an idea that when developed could help any organization figure out where they are, and the moves to take based on where they want to be. Tim is going to lend academic depth and rigor because of his many gifts. And I’m hoping to find myself useful in some way. 😉  More than likely, peeking into the future a bit to shape the conversation on not only what has worked in the past, but what will be central in the Social Era.

Beyond sharing the story that this new work is going on, it seemed to me that this is yet another example of how value is created in the Social Era.

– It is geography independent. Anyone from anywhere can collaborate.

– It is cross-disciplinary. (An academic and an operating type walk into a coffee shop … )

– While we certainly hope there will be some way to feed our families while / as we pursue this idea, we start it not knowing what the business model looks like. Passion, purpose, and interest precede the profit model.

– There is no sanctioning needed. We don’t need an institutional blessing (aka Harvard or MIT) to start …though our institutional connections and colleagues at major publications will surely help us shape, vet, and share the idea.

– We’ll be sharing as we go. Which means anyone — quite possibly you — will have ideas on what to include or cover or you will start to challenge our thinking and in doing so, shape ours. You will ultimately be the sharers of those ideas, if you deem them worthy.


I look forward to hearing what you think is needed and what you hope we’ll develop — feel free to comment here or on Tim’s blog.


3 Replies

  1. Working within a large global TS company, I have observed that innovation is really acceptable change. There is a huge challenge in getting TS companies to innovate. TS companies have established revenues to protect. TS companies have risk management strategies (and departments) that focus on reducing risk by pushing predictability in results (low/no deviation). TS companies fail to realize that risk is both positive and negative and innovation is impossible when an organization does what it always has done to reduce risk (banks are really good at this). Unfortunately a focus on risk reduction also removes innovation/opportunity (i.e. positive risk or profitable growth). The paradox is that risk management actually makes an organization assume greater risk!

    Using a social era strategic business approach (didn’t realize it until I’ve read some of Merchant’s work) there is no simple way to move a TS company toward innovation (even with a matrix). TS companies will try to create new strategies, processes, checklists, etc to be more innovative, yet TS companies don’t realize that innovation (accepting change) is a mindset.

    What our team on the west coast is observing, is that innovation (or accepting change) is really part of an individual’s and collective team’s mindset. Or in organizational speak, part of the company culture. Changing the mindset of an individual or the culture of an organization is challenging, particularly if the leader or leadership doesn’t hold the same values. Our team is experiencing rapid success applying a social era strategy under my leadership. The fun part is how the global organization is noticing and wanting to know the magic sauce, the check list to create, the killer app.

    To our team, its about having an absolute passion for our craft, our trade; wanting to serve our market, our customers in a way that makes them more successful through an open conversation that engages them to co-create with us. To our team its having the mindset where we take our desires out of the process, and look to manage the risks of our customers in a flat power structure. With this honesty, transparency and openness we are winning work, attention of our entire market and free press of our “innovative” approaches.

    Social era is here.
    Innovation is a mindset.

    1. I struggle with this question all the time — Even last night I was with a CEO of a silicon valley firm and he had read Social Era but said he needed a path to get from being the Gorilla to the path of Gazelle and he wanted some kind of systemic stepped approach. I recognize that an illuminated pathway might make it feel more safe or comfortable to get started. And yet my initial response is to say “start the conversation within the firm — what would it take for us to do this” because in that conversation, the shift starts to happen. Or using your eloquent language, the mindset starts to shift.

      Maybe it’s both? Maybe we need to know some known paths so we can spot if we are going in the right direction, much like blazes are in the back woods for backpackers — some sign that we’re where we need to be, and of course, starting where we are with our mindset.

  2. I’d suggest that maybe innovation is a mindset that encourages discovery from people inside and outside the walls of the organization. A “seek and you shall find” mentality that encourges people to seek the discovery of what isn’t but could be. Our minds are a powered by creativity and when people rediscover their own creativity innovation appears. However, we have to unlearn what we’ve learned because what we know is not what we need to know. 🙂

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