Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

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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