‘ Informality, Serendipity, Rule-breaking, Deviance, and Unconventionality: Managing the Unmanageable Ingredients of Successful Innovation’ Dr. Steve Conway University of Bath School of Management
CONSIDERING INFORMALITY AND SERENDIPITY IN INNOVATIVENESS <ul><li>“ Unfortunately, most innovation management practice appears to be predicated on the implicit assumption that we can beat the sloppiness out of the process if only we’d get the plans tidier and the teams better organized. The role of experiments and skunkworks, the zeal of champions…is denigrated as an aid fit for only those who aren’t smart enough to plan wisely.” (Peters, 1988) </li></ul>
SUCCESSFUL INNOVATION THROUGH ‘ACCIDENT’ Daguerreotype Portrait of Louis Daguerre (1844)
SUCCESSFUL INNOVATION THROUGH ‘DEVIANCE’ APPLE MAC APPLE LISA
SUCCESSFUL INNOVATION THROUGH ‘INFORMALITY’ MRC 500 Microscope
SO WHAT? What can we learn from these stories for managing innovation?
SUCCESSFUL INNOVATION THROUGH CAPTURED ‘ACCIDENT’ 3M Post-it Note
SUCCESSFUL INNOVATION THROUGH PLANNED ‘INFORMALITY’ LOCKHEED ‘Shooting Star’
A DIFFERENT SET OF QUESTIONS ARISE FROM THESE CASES… <ul><li>How can managers encourage incidental learning and serendipity, as well as capture their benefits and insights? </li></ul><ul><li>How can managers encourage informality without creating chaos, and direct it to organisational goals? </li></ul><ul><li>Outsiders can be very innovative because of their separation from the mainstream, but how can managers organise to embrace rather than ignore or reject their contribution? </li></ul>
… THE ANSWER LARGELY LIES IN ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGN <ul><li>Recognizing and embracing the role of informal networks / informal organization </li></ul><ul><li>Recognizing and mimicking informality within ‘controlled’ environments – ‘Skunkworks’ </li></ul><ul><li>Recognizing and setting the pre-conditions for encouraging and benefiting from serendipity and incidental learning </li></ul>
PRECONDITIONS FOR SERENDIPITY <ul><li>temporal – that is, the importance of being in the ‘right place at the right time’. </li></ul><ul><li>analytical – the importance of purposeful searching, and active learning and analysis. </li></ul><ul><li>relational – this refers to unexpected discoveries that emerge from social connections and interactions. </li></ul><ul><li>(Fine and Deegan, 1996) </li></ul>
ENHANCING INFORMAL LEARNING <ul><li>proactivity – an individual’s preparedness to take initiative. </li></ul><ul><li>critical reflexivity – an individual’s willingness to surface and critique one’s own assumptions and ‘taken-for-granteds’ (i.e. ‘double-loop’ learning). </li></ul><ul><li>creativity – an individual’s ability and willingness to explore possibilities and to break-out of preconceived patterns of thinking and behaviour. </li></ul><ul><li>(Marsick and Watkins, 1997) </li></ul>
INFORMAL ORGANISATION: FUNCTIONAL OR DYSFUNCTIONAL? <ul><li>Functional - informal networks are seen as central to the processes through which organisations ‘get things done’, as well as a structure for sourcing and sharing knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Dysfunctiona l - informal networks may seek to actively protect individual or group status and resources, through political manoeuvring and restricting the spread of information. May also aid leakage of valuable information. </li></ul>
CREATING THE CLIMATE FOR INNOVATION: OPEN CULTURE <ul><li>Space for individuals to be creative </li></ul><ul><li>Supportive of new ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Room to make mistakes </li></ul><ul><li>Space for individuals to communicate openly </li></ul><ul><li>Open to ideas from other sources </li></ul>
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS <ul><li>Innovation as a ‘journey’ rather than simply a set of stages in a formal process </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation as the management of paradox (both/and rather than either/or decisions), e.g. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Formal and informal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Planned and emergent </li></ul></ul>
Talk based on Chapter 9, plus Chapters 7 and 8 from: Conway, S. and Steward, F. (2009). Managing and Shaping Innovation . Oxford University Press.