Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

In engagements with clients/customers, my work often includes system envisioning: facilitating the description of a collective desirable future (on a horizon of maybe 1 to 3 years out).  Once a group has converged on a future state or vision, moving forward is merely a matter of will.  Defining that future state, however, is more art than science.  In addition, with many more businesses operating as service systems, getting a handle on the invisible work that will be performed can be a challenge.  Work practices will coevolve with new technologies in ways unfamiliar to experiences to date.

In discussions with my colleagues, differences between their engagement approach and mine became clearer.  I understand and appreciate the process-based methods (e.g. process consultation by Ed Schein) used by large consulting teams, but my typical engagement is now timeboxed to a few weeks elapsed time, with just a few interviewers.  Some executive sponsors may ask for an interview guide in advance of coming onsite, but I don’t use a formally-structured guide.  The context for 60-to-90 minute interviews are light — we want people to talk about time-intensive activities and annoyances in their jobs — and generally find that interviewees would be happy if small adjustment could be made so that each would have to do less work.

Reflecting on these methods, I’ve seen a pattern of three stages in this approach:

  • (1) Induction: Rather than coming in with a preconceived model of how work gets done in a particular business, let those closest to the activities speak freely.  From the data collected, converge on common patterns in issues and/or problems that can be reviewed, validated and prioritized for resolution.

October 21st, 2009

Posted In: services, systems

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Systems Sciences Meet Service SciencesThe Service Innovation Educational Program at the Tokyo Institute of Technology hosted an “Open Seminar on Service Systems Science” (with a flyer in PDF) — as well as a private “Invited Workshop on Services Science, Management and Engineering” — in February 2009.

I’ve just noticed that much of the content is totally opaque to people who don’t read Japanese, so I’ve posted my (English-language) digest of the meetings on the Coevolving Innovation Commons.  The text is incomplete, but it at least provides a minimal sketch of some of the ideas discussed. (Digital photographs help, too!).  Speakers include:

The 2009 meetings were an annual extension of the 2008 21st Century CoE Symposium, and the first Invited Workshop on SSME.

With many of the researchers coming from a perspective of systems science, the trend has been to work out some of the ideas on an emerging science of service systems.

September 28th, 2009

Posted In: services, systems

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On more than one occasion, I’ve heard IBM executives assert:

The nature of innovation has changed. In the 21st century, innovation is open, collaborative, multidisciplinary and global.

The ideas of open, collaborative, multidisciplinary and global appeared in the Global Innovation Outlook 2.0 report that was published in mid-2006. These words appeared on IBM-internal slides presented by Nick Donofrio at an Consulting Leadership Exchange in September 2005, and at the external-facing conference on Education for the 21st Century in October 2006 … with lots of other occasions in between. But what do these four words mean?

To make some sense for myself, I’ve extended these words into phrases and contrasted their contexts in a table .

  Industrial age nature of innovation   21st century nature of innovation
Strategy Private methods and development enabling autonomous control over designs + Open standards and interfaces leveraging expedient platforms for advancing designs
Relationship Transactional production chains linked by inter-organizational contracting + Collaborative alliances coproducing accelerated learning
Method Analytical problem-solving + Multidisciplinary conversations
Economics Colonial trade + Global talent

I’ve been listening to audio recordings of Donofrio in conversation, as well as following Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s blog. While I believe that my reasoning is consistent with theirs, this is not something they’ve endorsed. When I present the right column to audiences, I generally see nods in agreement. At the same time, the implications of a contrasting left column on current business practices provokes some deeper reflections. Let me unpack each of the four points.

June 13th, 2008

Posted In: innovation

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