The Edge is our New Emerging Adaptive Core

I continue to investigate and explore as much of the thought leadership on innovation as I can, it continually points to a change in how we approach innovation. Delivering this changing message becomes simply a cause in itself as so many are failing to recognize it as radically different from their past innovation management.

I have written about the new innovation era in 2017 made up of higher levels of needed collaboration, where platforms, ecosystems and customer experience understanding become increasingly central.

I felt I needed to provide a more dedicated perspective on these in a collaboration with my established sparing partner Jeffrey Phillips over at Ovo Innovation in our website of Ecosystems4innovators.

We do stand at the cusp of a new innovation era but where do you stand?

We need to push well beyond our existing core of (existing) innovation understanding, we actually need a new innovation institutional design that recognizes the “core” lies at the edges of discovery.

The tenet of each organization in the past has been in protecting its core.

This is changing as the very core is changing to adapt to more volatile conditions, changing landscapes and more disruption. The core is not so much in what we know or own but in what we can learn from all that surrounds our core and this is increasingly found at the edges and externally.

The edge is our new emerging adaptive core

The new core can only be found at the edge, the customer edge. The customer is critical, they are absolutely essential to any innovation. If their needs are not fully understood, to turn the present fuzziness from not fully understanding their needs and unmet needs into opportunity to grow our business, you are at a real disadvantage today.

We need to really engage and have a real depth of understanding of the customer, their needs, their individual journey, by discovering and engaging with them constantly at all their current touch points and experiences of what they are wanting to do, that is different from today and this comes from new combinations.

We are rapidly appreciating the combination effect of technology, the data exchanges, and the analytics we gain from this, the insights and discoveries. The combination effect is changing the starting point of innovation, it is not beginning in idea generation found inside the building, and it is discovery found outside brought in, to then turn into potentially commercial ideas.

The world of discovery is rapidly opening up through software and technology solutions

There is a host of digital solutions that can bring discovery and insight into our innovation thinking.We have a growing selection of innovation software all looking far more at the “edge” to then bring this into the new core.

For example we can automatically identify trends and technologies that might shape our world, we can scan different corporate environments by applying a more disciplined radar scanning approach, we can capture more inspirations and ideas “on the go” through all our mobile options, scanning, sending and collecting in dedicated ‘idea’ repositories.

We have multiple choices of collaborative platforms, we can quickly mount crowdsourcing campaigns, validate different concepts and prototypes, have corporate idealization platforms, construct road maps that can steer discovery, technology, resources and ideas so as to ‘quickly’ translate these into a portfolio of options to judge and decide.

We can collaborate in ecosystems of mutual understanding, working to a desired end or range of new solutions, we have multiple platforms to leverage and work through. We have data inflows, analytic solutions, and insights, all crowding in on us to deliver sometimes overwhelming choices. The ability to reorganize differently becomes paramount to seizing the new potential that lies at the edges of external discovery.

No, our discovery side is so rich in possibility yet we often stay stuck in our existing core. Why?

I can liken it to an old heart, ticking away but not as capable of a great amount of real exertion as it used to be. It has had multiple bypasses, an odd heart attack and plenty of emergency interventions. We need a transformation, a new beating heart of innovation possibilities, recognizing these as continued infusions, becoming the essential (blood) flow that feeds the innovation heart. It has never been as healthy as today, of being able in providing a constant flow of possibilities that circulate and provide the new innovation oxygen.

Forget the past reliance

The old concept of a complete reliance on internally thinking, of “we have the best ideas and understanding” are totally out of date. Believing our growth is simply being reliant on internal product and service extension is failing to move this growth needle apart from limited short-term gains. We can’t rely on simply ‘tweaking’ the existing core anymore. We need to think differently. We need to be utterly outwardly orientated to all of the customer and market dynamics and it is through technology capture we can begin to translate these into new innovation opportunities.

So the edge will radically begin to transform the core

To become more aggressive and combat the disruptive forces at work all around us we must go to the edge. The edge can be still made up of products, services, and market opportunities but we need to consider the underlying forces that are at work within this and these lie outside our own domain of physical building, experience or our existing techniques to exploit the known.

We need to find the unknown, we need to pick up on the weak signals we can only find at the edges and begin to build a very different institutional innovation set of capabilities.

Thinking at the edge can be very transforming

Edges require different practices from the core; they, over-time impact the core, hence why we need to begin to think through institutional innovation change to accommodate this leading from the edge.

The value of considering platforms and ecosystems within this redesign allows you to accelerate outside learning, leverage the knowledge available across a broader community and can deliver internally new understanding and knowledge in areas where the core lacks, or is inadequately set up in expertise.

What was the internal competence of knowledge inside the organization is becoming increasingly an inhibitor. It only contains the core of the existing business; it does not allow you to tap into opportunities of tomorrow in new, openly shared ways.

Collaborations across organizations can defray the cost; it limits risk but encourages experiment. You achieve ways to gains quickly differently learning opportunities and connect with different areas of specialization not found within the one organization.

A different understanding: stocks and flows that come from our edges

Today it is not “stocks of your knowledge” as these rapidly lose value, it is the “flows of all knowledge” and these come increasingly within the relationships you form at the edges and platforms and ecosystems can accelerate these flows and leverage knowledge and discovery.

We do need to re-conceive innovation – our new core is found at the edges if growth is important to you. It is how you apply all that is potentially available to you today, to leverage and learn what is valued and needed becomes the critical investment time, you need to put into the discovery of the edge and all it can mean to your existing core.

We simply need to transform our framing and much of this is outside not within. Have you made this recognition that your core is at increasing risk unless you discover the edges that will transform everything you do and you will want to protect as your new connected intelligent core highly connected to the outside world?

We can explore this more if you are interested?

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paul-hobcraft-150x150Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Follow @paul4innovating

Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft is recognized for his consistency to champion and informs on innovation. He focuses on building innovation capacity, competencies, and capabilities and promotes innovation in informative, creative and knowledgeable ways, piecing together the broader understanding of innovation. Paul continually constructs a series of novel and relevant frameworks to help advance this innovation understanding and writes mainly through his posting site of where he regularly publishes his thinking and research based on solutions that underpin his advisory, coaching and consulting work at




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