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The Innovation Butterfly: Managing Emergent Opportunities and Risks During Distributed Innovation (Understanding Complex Systems) [Hardcover]

Edward G. Anderson Jr. , Nitin R. Joglekar

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Book Description

7 Jun 2012 1461431301 978-1461431305 2012

Product and service innovations are the result of mutually interacting creative and coordination tasks within a system that has to balance technical decisions, marketplace taste, personnel management, and stakeholder commitment. The constituent elements of such systems are often scattered across multiple firms and across the globe and constitute a complex system consisting of many interacting parts.

In the spirit of the "butterfly effect", metaphorically describing the sensitivity to initials conditions of chaotic systems, this book builds an argument that "innovation butterflies" can, in the short term, take up significant amounts of effort and sap efficiencies within individual innovation projects. Such "innovation butterflies" can be prompted by external forces such as government legislation or unexpected spikes in the price of basic goods (such as oil), unexpected shifts in market tastes, or from a company manager's decisions or those of its competitors. Even the smallest change, the smallest disruption, to this system can steer a firm down an unpredictable and irreversibly different path in terms of technology and market evolution.

In the long term, they can shift the balance of the entire innovation portfolio into unplanned directions. More importantly, we describe how innovation leaders can influence the emergent behavior of the system for good or ill.  

The first half of the book draws parallels from physics, economics, and sociology as well as evidence from multiple industries to describe the structural and behavioral causes of emergent phenomena in innovation settings as well as their often negative impacts. In the second half of the book, we turn to distributed management of innovation under emergence. We show that innovation butterflies, if improperly managed, most often lead to negative outcomes. On the other hand, it is also argued that while the complexity of the innovation system and the desire to experiment and try new and emergent alternatives precludes precise planning, innovation leaders can actually tame innovation butterflies through the design and implementation of appropriate processes, strategies, tools and leadership choices.


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Product and service innovations are the result of mutually interacting creative and coordination tasks within a system that has to balance technical decisions, marketplace taste, personnel management, and stakeholder commitment. The constituent elements of such systems are often scattered across multiple firms and across the globe and constitute a complex system consisting of many interacting parts.

In the spirit of the "butterfly effect", metaphorically describing the sensitivity to initials conditions of chaotic systems, this book builds an argument that "innovation butterflies" can, in the short term, take up significant amounts of effort and sap efficiencies within individual innovation projects. Such "innovation butterflies" can be prompted by external forces such as government legislation or unexpected spikes in the price of basic goods (such as oil), unexpected shifts in market tastes, or from a company manager’s decisions or those of its competitors. Even the smallest change, the smallest disruption, to this system can steer a firm down an unpredictable and irreversibly different path in terms of technology and market evolution.

In the long term, they can shift the balance of the entire innovation portfolio into unplanned directions. More importantly, we describe how innovation leaders can influence the emergent behavior of the system for good or ill.  

The first half of the book draws parallels from physics, economics, and sociology as well as evidence from multiple industries to describe the structural and behavioral causes of emergent phenomena in innovation settings as well as their often negative impacts. In the second half of the book, we turn to distributed management of innovation under emergence. We show that innovation butterflies, if improperly managed, most often lead to negative outcomes. On the other hand, it is also argued that while the complexity of the innovation system and the desire to experiment and try new and emergent alternatives precludes precise planning, innovation leaders can actually tame innovation butterflies through the design and implementation of appropriate processes, strategies, tools and leadership choices.


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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Breakthrough thinking on what drives innovation 31 Dec 2012
By David J. Giber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
So many of the books on innovation say the same things about creating a culture that supports new ideas and searching for "disruptive" breakthroughs. Few have addressed the key systems and leadership issues which underlie whether new ideas are recognized early and emerge. They do not address how to manage innovation in the complex systems of global organizations and teams. The Innovation Butterfly is an amazingly readable and engaging book that provides critical questions which leaders need to ask about whether their systems for innovation are strong or at risk for falling behind. It offers rich and diverse examples of the thinking and approaches needed to sustain innovation in an organization, anticipate issues that arise as change occurs, and lead in ways which anticipate risk and open up opportunities.

The book provides useful examples of how innovators keep understanding their customers and markets in an ongoing way - it points out specific ways in which innovative leaders "read the tea leaves" by using data and organizing systems that help them do what the authors have termed "SROM"- scout, roadmap, orchestrate and maneuver. What Anderson and Joglekar have given us is useful and new ways of talking about and evaluating how well we are ready to compete and how truly agile and open to new ideas our organizations are.

The authors also connect their ideas on innovation to such current approaches as agile software development. They provide ways for thinking about this approach as much more than a software methodology but as a means for how teams create environments for improved communication and collaboration.

While this is a fascinating book of case studies and systems models, it is also an extremely useful and practical book to those focused on improving teamwork and developing leaders. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in organizational systems, innovation, leadership and thinking deeply about the roots of competitive advantage and high impact innovation.
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