Theory & Practice for Innovation

In reading Christensen, Anthony & Roth (2004) Seeing What’s Next, I found patterns linking three strategic innovation approaches.

First, in McLuhan for Managers, the authors synthesize much of Marshall McLuhan’s work, and provide a lens for managers and owners to make business decisions. The important piece of this book is how to use McLuhan’s laws of media to understand the changes that are possible with a medium. The authors suggest that it is in the retrieves quadrant of the
probes ” … we may be able to glean valuable clues as to the effects of the new medium from more easily observed effects of the old.” Understanding retrieval can give a clearer vision of signal versus noise.

Johansson, in The Medici Effect says that new businesses should look for reversals in order to find possibilities, especially at the intersection of fields or disciplines. These can result in order of magnitude business opportunities.

Christensen, also the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution, gives new business entrants and incumbents a theory-based set of tools to understand and use disruptive innovations. One of the strategies for new businesses is to target non-core customers of the incumbents. These come in three categories (overshot, undershot and non-customers) and by targeting these customers entrants can avoid direct confrontation, while developing skills and expertise (swords) in areas outside the core business of the incumbents. Once the entrants have grown “under the radar”, they can grow to directly confront the incumbents.

This is an over-simplification of these three excellent books, but my intent is to grab your interest, as I see patterns in each book that reinforce each other, and I believe can be beneficial to your business, existing or new. Finally, Seeing What’s Next includes chapters on the healthcare and education industries, two fields of my own practice. The chapter on education was worth the price of the book for me.

Here is my first attempt at summarizing some of these concepts in a graphical form.

2 Responses to “Theory & Practice for Innovation”

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Harold,
    Hi Harold,

    I don’t know if you’ve ever read Gareth Morgan’s work on the use of metaphors in business so that people can cope with complexity. Here’s an overview Also, Morgan’s "Images of Organizations" is a must-read.

    A metaphor that I find particularly interesting when it comes to innovation and change is "flux and transformation". It sees organizations as being most of the time in a state of organized chaos i.e. evolving around a Lorentz attractor. From time to time, organizations get at the edge of their chaotic system and tip into another evolutive system i.e. they revolve around a new attractor. Not very pratical I admit, but interesting conceptually.

    Yan Simard


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