Thanks to everyone that has made comments and suggestions on The Innovation Matrix Reloaded. I’ll continue to incorporate your thoughts and ideas as the concept evolves. With that in mind, today I’d like to ask for some help.
First, let’s take a look at the Innovation Matrix again – I’ve highlighted the two categories I want to talk about:
Organisations that are innovative without having any commitment to innovation are interesting. Who falls into these categories?
When I first started thinking about this, one example immediately came to mind. A few years ago John and I started a big research project looking at innovation networks in project-based firms. One of the companies with whom we’ve done a lot of work on this project is a big mining company. Early in our relationship with them we had a meeting with several of the knowledge-management people in their main office. When we asked them about innovation, their response was “we’re not innovative.”
We were a bit surprised by this, but if they said it, it must be true, right? But as our research progressed, we discovered something interesting. When we went out to visit their mines and started talking to people, we found out that they are generating and executing innovative ideas all the time. True, nearly all of them are incremental, but still, in practice, this firm is actually reasonably competent at executing ideas – despite the fact that their upper management thinks that they are non-innovative, and in fact provides basically no support of innovation at all.
This is the kind of firm that I was thinking of as Accidental Innovators.
There are a few other examples of organisations in this category. Jürgen Stäudtner commented yesterday that firms with a strong focus on meeting customer needs can also be Accidental Innovators. They might not be consciously trying to innovate, but in meeting needs, they end up generating new products and services. This is similar to a comment that Rohan Hine made on the first version of the matrix, when he said that firms that are just starting out might not have a formal innovation process in place, but that in the course of figuring out how to survive in the market they may generate and execute innovative ideas.
So I can think of a few examples of organisations that fit into this category in the matrix. I think that in most cases these types of organisations will be limited to executing incremental innovations. However, with some added commitment, they also have the potential to become very good at it. They already have some skill at executing ideas – and this is one of the most important factors in innovating.
But this leads to the help that I need from you:
Where are the Unicorns?
Are there organisations that you can think of that have no commitment to innovation, yet are excellent at generating and executing new ideas?
Here’s another way to think of it: what’s the biggest innovation you can think of that came from an organisation that you would normally not think of as being innovative?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. If we can find some Unicorns, I might have to change the name of the category. On the other hand, being the first to actually find a mythical creature would be pretty cool…
(Photo from flickr/ranil under a Creative Commons License)