“Innovation” is popular word characterizing businesses, organizations and start-ups in today’s tech-saturated world. It’s not terribly difficult to understand why, right?
If a start-up company or long-lasting organization is genuinely innovative, then they’re a place marked by thorough-going creativity that produces solutions to complex problems. They’re a place where innovation happens. What organization wouldn’t want to be known as a place of innovation? None that we can think of.
However, this talk of organizations or companies as being “innovative” can lack precision at times. Strictly speaking, organizations and companies aren’t innovative. People are innovative.
A slightly different concept that’s gaining new-found popularity is the “innovation ecosystem.” This is a concept that’s near and dear to the hearts of us at Harness because most — if not all — of what we do centers around creating ecosystems for innovation.
But what is an innovation ecosystem? What are the implications of it? And why should you be part of one?
We thought it would be good idea to answer these questions.
Innovation Ecosystems: The What
Starting with the first question, what exactly is the innovation ecosystem definition? Believe it or not, there’s a growing literature of research on this very topic.
One bit of this research defines innovation ecosystems this way:
“… an attractive metaphor to describe collectives of heterogeneous, yet complementary, organizational actors who jointly create some kind of system-level output, analogous to an ‘ecosystem service’ that natural ecosystems facilitate…and one that extends beyond the outputs and activities of any individual participant of the ecosystem.”
This is the most technical definition. Here’s an adapted definition from the same research which is a little easier on the brain:
“…clusters (physical or virtual) of innovation activities around specific themes.”
We like this definition. It’s simple, clear, and illustrative of the core idea. Innovation ecosystems are these clusters (physical or virtual) that house innovation activity around specific themes. They can include entrepreneurs, universities, government agencies, innovation labs and accelerators, as well as influencers.
Technology, biology, landscape-engineering — these are examples of themes around which innovation ecosystems can be arranged. The list of themes are endless.
Universities, agencies, regions — these are examples of the clusters that house the innovation activity.
We’re off to a great start here, but until we help you understand why innovation ecosystems matter, we’ve not done much for you. On to the why we go.
The Why to Develop an Ecosystem to Innovation
One good way to understand why something matters is through identifying what makes it distinctive and special.
Here’s our attempt at distilling what makes global innovation ecosystems distinctive and special (the non-distilled version can be found here.)
Innovation ecosystems matter because they provide us a way to organize communities of innovative people united by a diverse range of values, vision and ideas. They allow for the co-creation of new ventures and new insights. Entrepreneurial activity becomes diverse in nature as a result.
Without an environment, innovation becomes a homogenous rather than heterogeneous enterprise. It becomes an enterprise, in other words, lacking diversity. Have you ever tried to be innovative in a group of people who all thought exactly the same way? Have you ever tried to innovate in a community of people that lacked diversity?
Chances are, there wasn’t too much innovation going on. Or if there was, it was vastly limited by the lack of diverse ideas and thoughts. This is just one of many of the profound benefits of innovation ecosystems: they foster more innovation.
We’ll say more about that in just a bit.
Hopefully, you can now see why we have something like an obsession with innovation and their thriving.
The How: Harness
Harness is all about bringing innovation into existence and keeping them alive and well. Harness exists for innovation ecosystems.
We build platforms that give universities and organizations world-wide a way to generate an innovation ecosystem. How do we do this? By developing online platforms that use intuitive software to connect creatives and problem-solvers with fellow creatives and problem-solvers — in and outside your industry.
Moreover, we’re crazy about mentorship and see it as a fundamental feature of innovation ecosystems because of the way it breeds learning, creativity, and growth. Our platform makes accessing mentorship — whether you need it or want to offer it — easier than ever.
If you already have an one, our platform brings increased order and organization, offering you, the ecosystem manager, peace of mind and data on your users in return.
This brings us to the implications of innovation ecosystems for innovation management. As any innovative person knows, innovation requires some guard rails, so to speak. In other words, innovation needs order and organization.
Attempting to innovate in a communal context needs even more order. You need a way to organize ideas. You need to set a vision that guides the innovation, and have open lines of communication among the innovators. Platforms to entrepreneurs and innovators are designed to accomplish just this.
Innovation ecosystems truly enable further and greater levels of innovation than ever before, then, are wide-reaching.
We’ve really just begun to scratch the surface of innovation ecosystems and our involvement with them. If you can’t wait until our next blog, we invite you to Univa, our platform to connect innovators
Otherwise, stay tuned for more from us on innovation ecosystems and what we’re doing to support them worldwide.