Lean and Agile Innovation Ecosystems: Part 2Posted: August 26, 2014
Brown and agile child, the sun which forms the fruit
And ripens the grain and twists the seaweed
Has made your happy body and your luminous eyes
And given your mouth the smile of water.
Pablo Neruda, “Brown and Agile Child”
There are three themes to pursue this month in our continuing quest to understand the science of innovation ecosystems. First is agility. In July’s blog (http://innovationrainforest.com/2014/07/22/lean-and-agile-innovation-ecosystems-part-1/) we introduced the notion of agility in innovation ecosystems and looked at some principles of agile manufacturing systems and lessons to be learned from them.
Second is knowledge reuse. In our October 2013 blog (http://innovationrainforest.com/2013/10/13/create-early-use-often-lego-blocks-learning-objects-and-ecosystems-part-2/) reusability of knowledge was discussed at some length. Studies on knowledge reuse for innovation from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech were summarized which found that users were motivated to reuse others’ ideas if: work processes optimize exposure to diverse knowledge sources; there exists a culture within the project which encourages malleable knowledge reuse; and there are efficient ways to locate, assess for credibility, and flexibility to allow knowledge reuse.
The third theme is more difficult to name. Let’s call it ‘familiarity’ until we can come up with a better term. It relates to a thread running through several blogs in this series, namely that there are common, or at least similar, features amongst seeming dissimilar innovation and technology commercialization ecosystems. These elements are building blocks which must be correctly connected for innovation to bloom.
A few reoccurring examples of difficulties with these elements I have seen in countries as diverse as the UK and Colombia, or the USA and Russia, include: poor relationships between educational organizations and industry (it is commonly believed that developed nations such as the USA has the problem completely solved – but it is not so); help for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) during early stage growth which proved in fact to be unattractive to SMEs; new business incubators; proof of concept, prototype development, and scale-up centers which are underutilized or lack needed services; and of course technology transfer offices at universities and research centers which may be inadequately staffed or supported – or have unclear missions.
Weaving these themes together suggests a greater reuse of knowledge and ‘how-to’ experience – familiarity’ – should lead to greater ecosystem agility.
Let’s call these ecosystems Agile Type 1, and postulate the testable hypotheses:
H1: If an innovation ecosystems is Agile Type 1 then there will be a rapid flow (or ‘diffusion’ to use a more traditional term) of ideas, solutions, knowledge, and so forth through system and its networks.
H2: If an innovation ecosystem is Agile Type 1 then the ecosystem will be capable of rapid self-organization, be highly responsive to system environment changes, and respond efficiently to errors and external shocks.
Ecosystem agility Type 1 also indicates a dynamic innovation ecosystem which exhibits both self-organization and which may have leaders within or outside the self-organized groups. Some degree of direction may be needed for example by those who have knowledge of constraining conditions such as resources available or the need to protect intellectual property.
Such capacity produces ‘areas of stability’ in complex adaptive systems – a frequently observed effect – represented by the phase space projection (right).
In the Rainforest (The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley http://www.therainforestbook.com/) model these are farms with the rainforest.
Both these hypotheses are of significance when rapid diffusion through social networks is investigated. Results from these investigations are both intuitive and curious. They will help us to speculate on innovation ecosystems of Agile Type 2. These will be postulated as systems which are more vulnerable than Agile Type 1. Agile Type 1 can be thought of as an ideal case, whereas Agile Type 2 innovation ecosystems are closer to reality.
Next time: some recent research on the diffusion of innovation in social networks and more on Type 2 ecosystems.
All previous blogs in this series can be found at http://innovationrainforest.com/author/alistair2013/