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Scaling your innovation (or scaling your edges)


This morning I was reading the latest article from Anthony Ferrier on how you can scale your innovation.  It’s a great topic because it’s relatively easy for innovation within an organization to be holed up in small pockets where radical thinkers can go about their business under the radar of the wider organization.

To achieve real impact however, they need to scale things up, they need to attract the interest of the wider organization and mobilize them for their cause.  And that’s anything but easy.

Anthony provides a number of excellent suggestions on how to do that, and when reading it I was reminded of the core guidelines that underpin what John Hagel and John Seely Brown call scaling your edges.

  1. Locate your edge, which is likely to be an emerging business opportunity that has great potential to scale up rapidly.
  2. Identify your changemaker/s who fully understand and will embrace this opportunity.
  3. Position this individual/s outside the core of the organization.
  4. Take a lean startup style approach and experiment relentlessly in order to accelerate learning.
  5. Deprive the team of much in the way of support or resources.
  6. Encourage the team to connect and partner with other parties outside of the organization to gain the support they need.
  7. The new venture should look to create a new product or service and not cannibalize the core business, at least to begin with

The last three of these are often crucial because with any innovation there is a risk of awakening what is known as the immune system of the organization.

If the cash cow core of the business feels at all threatened by what the innovation team are doing then it’ll be squashed pretty quickly.

It’s an interesting list don’t you think?  Number 5 is particularly interesting.  I remember that the late CK Prahalad used to say that the mother of invention was not having the resources needed to do what you wanted to do, so there is a lot going for keeping things lean and mean.

I would however like to see the intellectual property and data of the parent organization opened up to the innovation team.  We’ve seen with external communities such as Quirky and Marblar what can happen when under-utilized IP is exposed to fresh ideas, and the same could very well occur inside the enterprise too.

What do you think of the list?  Is it a good approach to scaling up innovation?

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