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Business Creativity & Innovation

Building versus implementing Innovation systems

Like most people with websites I spend time analysing statistics from my website, especially the words and phrases that are typed into search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

One of the most frequent phrases or sentences that crops up is ‘implementing an innovation system’ or ‘implementing innovation’. This is both puzzling and worrying. It would seem to be a good thing that people and businesses are searching for information regarding Innovation but they seem to be thinking that Innovation is a system to be implemented rather like a book keeping system and that there is a magic prescription that they can follow that is to be found somewhere on the internet.

These Googlers are likely to be frustrated and will probably be heard to utter expletives at consultants who don’t give anything away unless they are paid exorbitant daily fee rates. Of course those who develop intellectual property will wish some reward but that is not the main reason for these frustrated Google users. The truth is that there simply is no prescription. It is possible to find checklists, frameworks and balanced scorecards as well as stories of success but nothing of use unless you first understand that an innovation system cannot be implemented.

Such a system must be built from the bottom up, with a thorough understanding of where you are starting out from and what you wish to achieve. What you may not know is how you are going to get there. This is what takes the leap of faith and which is often the reason for the consultants’ fees. Once you start, the process is a little like building a bespoke house brick by brick except that you may never finish.

A better term might be ‘growing’ rather than ‘building’ as Innovation frameworks tend to be based on soft skills and are unique to the businesses in which they exist. They may exhibit similar characteristics to one another on the surface but each company’s Innovation context differs due to the make up of its components, employees. This is what we strive for, deriving competitive advantage in a way that cannot be copied easily by others. Having a system that could be implemented from a standard blueprint would not be worth doing as others would copy it.

And those consultants? Yes you will need them to facilitate the process but beware those who wish to implement everything for you. You will be paying them for a system that can be easily copied – best to get the ideas then do the work yourself.

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