Technology, Innovation and Organization (for complex organizational settings)

Irving Wladawsky-Berger has an interesting post that relates complex organizational systems, innovation management (processes) and the use of social software in the enterprise (you know why I find this interesting …):

[…] the opportunities to leverage the huge advances in technologies, standards and communications to enable us to look at a whole organization – an enterprise, an industry eco-system or an economy – as a holistic, integrated system, linking together processes, information and people. Needless to say, these are incredibly complex systems. The [traditional, established, MK] tools we are using to design, build and manage them today are quite primitive, and they thus require considerable labor-based services.

[…] Our challenge and opportunity now is to develop similarly sophisticated tools and methodologies to deal with complex organizational systems like those found across industries and economies. Compared to what we’ve done so far, this is hard, – very, very hard.


What we clearly need are more flexible, modular architectures to enable systems to evolve and adapt to rapidly changing, unpredictable market conditions, as well as a whole set of tools to enable people to handle real-time actions and decisions with the kind of quality and productivity we associate with engineering systems.

He argues for innovation technologies, like simulation and modeling tools, virtual reality, data mining and rapid prototyping by citing a new book by Dodgson, Gann and Salter (Think, Play, Do: Technology, Innovation, and Organization). While this is interesting and I wholeheartedly follow his arguments, e.g. when calling for organizational prototypes, experimenting etc., I also think we need more basic and lightweight stuff for a start. As most organizations don’t have a shortage in technologies or tools, I don’t think it’s a good idea to promote more tools. Rather we should start promoting collaborative principles and methods and introduce tools later on.

Promoting lightweight social software tools like wikis for innovation management is relatively easy in this context: they facilitate adaptive, collaborative and distributed (innovation) processes, they can support all three key activities he calls for:

– thinking (idea generation),
– playing (designing, experimenting, assessing and selecting),
– and doing (prototyping).

and last but not least they offer a space for emergence, i.e. self-organization that is necessary in volatile and changing contexts.

  1. Danke für diesen Beitrag. Das Blog von Wladawsky-Berger gehört mit zum Besten, was ich (dank Ihres Artikels) in den letzten Monaten in der Blogosphäre gefunden habe.

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