Normally, I make an attempt to write articles in an optimistic and open way. (Okay, okay…with exception of my latest article about arranging a meeting in your next life.) However, in this article I would like to take up a rather gloomy position in order to foster the discussion about a new trend within the province of knowledge management.
I believe that social innovation platforms are doomed within organizational context. Why? The social aspect is still lacking and I’m quite sure about that. I noticed it in my daily operations and cases I’m involved in, and in my master thesis prior to my work as a consultant. In any case an organization wants to build a new platform that has to foster innovation, it seems that they continuously simply forget the social aspect of it. You cannot simply build an advanced technological platform and deploy it within you organization. Real innovation is fostered by people’s intrinsic values, organizational culture and rewarding mechanisms.
In most cases, the lack of use of an innovation platform is reproached to the effectiveness of internal marketing and promotion campaigns. But the real cause of the of the non-popularity goes far beyond that plain observation. An organization that want to foster innovation has to focus on the social issues, an technological platform should be given less priority.
Three reasons why to focus on the social aspects and build a platform later on. First of all, is your organizational culture really that innovative? What kind of people do you recruit and employ? Are they open and willing to show entrepreneurship. Is entrepreneurship something that you call important, or is innovation something that is really deep-rooted in the whole corporate culture? Nedap is a good example of an organization that embeds innovation in the whole corporate culture. People in their company are really encouraged to show entrepreneurship. Nedap even does not use any grades for their employees and each employee is simply, yet clearly, called ‘entrepreneur’. Even the business cards don’t show any degree and just simply state the name and ‘entrepreneur’.
Rewarding mechanisms are also still underexposed in most organizations. However, people simply won’t come up with new innovations if they know they probably don’t get any reward for it. They might do it for the first time, but certainly not for the second time. Unfortunately, most organization experience difficulties with redefining their embedded archaic metrics upon employees are rewarded. I do recommend a combination of short and long term metrics. Short term metrics focus on the added value on the short term, for instance in existing projects. Long term metrics focus on the result of innovation in the long run and measure the effect on business revenues. After all, only innovative organizations are able to increase business revenues year after year.
We really have to incorporate social issues in order to make social innovation work!