There are three types of innovation (process, product/service, and strategy) each of which can vary from incremental to radical and from sustaining to discontinuous. There are also important relations between these types of innovation. For example, a strategy innovation may necessitate process, and/or product innovations.
General Frameworks for Adoption of Innovations
The adoption of innovations has been conceptualized in many different ways in the literature, most commonly focusing on culture, processes, or people and roles. A major problem in a change initiative is how to get innovations or new ideas adopted. There are many change models or frameworks presented that try to explain changes in culture, processes, or people.
Rogers (19xx) takes a systematic approach focusing on four main elements in the diffusion of innovations: (1) innovation, (2) communication channels, (3) change over time, and (4) social systems. The innovation-decision process begins with a knowledge component, proceeding through persuasion or development of an attitude towards or away from the innovation, a decision to adopt or reject the change, implementation of the innovation, and confirmation of the decision to adopt. People in the social system make their choices to adopt, modify, or not adopt changes at different rates thus are classified as innovators, earlier adopters, early majority, late majority, or laggards. The rate of adoption is influenced by the communication channels, degree of homophily in the social system, and time.
Evans’ (1996) approach is to provide practical advice on problem-solving, communication, and staff motivation by presenting a conceptual framework for understanding human behavior and organizational functioning in regards to a leadership model that builds a framework for cooperation, not conflict, between leaders and the people they depend on to implement innovations. One of his unique contributions is the concept of the authentic leader. According to Evans (1996), "Transformation begins with trust. Trust is the essential link between leader and led vital to, followership" (p 183). The authentic leader exhibits personal ethics, vision, and belief in others and he or she translates these strong values into organizational visions that others buy in to and are inspired to adopt.
Types of Innovation
There are three main types of innovation (process, product/service, and strategy), each of which can vary in the degree of newness (incremental to radical) and impact (sustaining versus discontinuous).
Process innovation became an important topic with the rise of the quality and continuous improvement movements and, then again, with the more recent attention directed at change management, organizational learning and knowledge management. Also, it has been argued that organizational processes and structures oriented to incremental product innovation are not the same as those needed to foster and facilitate new product development. The current wisdom it is necessary to separate these activities and to introduce wholly new process innovations that will help promote and speed-up radical product innovation.
Strategy or Business Concept Innovation
It is, of course, possible to incrementally improve one’s business strategy but Hamel (1996, 2000) contends that radical business concept innovation is now paramount. He claims that the current environment is hostile to industry incumbents and hospitable to industry revolutionaries. The fortifications that protected the industrial oligarchy have crumbled under the weight of deregulation, technological upheaval, globalization, and social change. What is now required to ensure organizational success is to continually revolutionize the basic organizational strategy, which progressively typically requires: radically re-conceiving products and services, not just developing new products and services, redefining market space, redrawing industry boundaries.
What is the problem? Implementation, not efficacy
The problem for many of these innovations is not that they didn’t work, but that the organization could not figure out how to implement and sustain the innovations as an organizational change (Repenning 2002)
Why do programs succeed?
1. They have a champion who builds support and assembles the necessary people, skills, training, and resources.
2. The planning process involves the right people (Ansoff, p. 428).
3. Top management offers continuous commitment which creates an adequate foundation of support and power to implement and sustain the proposed change (Ansoff, p. 427, Senge).
4. They gain the support of opinion leaders, top officials, groups likely to adopt (Rogers, pp. 281, 326). Innovators and early adopters support the program. This result is enough power to effect change.
5. Build organizational capabilities: people, budget, time, and training to match the proposed change (Ansoff, p. 428)
6. The program works over time.
7. They become self-sustaining, reaching critical mass (Rogers, p. 313)
8. Behavioral and systematic resistance is managed (Ansoff and McDonnell, 1990, p. 418).
9. Management creates a psychologically safe environment for people to explore and learn (Senge).
10. Early shortcomings are addressed, adaptations made (Rogers, p. 394)
11. Create climate and culture that overcomes organizational defense mechanisms (Argyris, 1990).
12. The program becomes sustained/normalized as part of the organization’s routines (Rogers, 399).
Why does implementation fail?
One key reason why implementation fails is that practicing executives, managers and supervisors do not have practical, yet theoretically sound, models to guide their actions during implementation. Without adequate models, they try to implement strategies without a good understanding of the multiple factors that must be addressed, often simultaneously, to make implementation work. (Okumus, 2003, p. 871)
Drivers of Innovation
The primary drivers of innovation include: financial pressures to decrease costs, increase efficiency, do more with less, increased competition, shorter product life cycles, value migration, stricter regulations, industry and community needs for sustainable development, increased demand for accountability, community and social expectations and pressures (giving back to the community, doing good, etc.), demographic, social, and market changes, rising customer expectations regarding service and quality, greater availability of potentially useful new technologies coupled with the need to keep up or exceed the competition in applying these new technologies and he changing economy.
Although cost reduction has been a major driver of innovation, other drivers are also important. Regulatory drivers have become more important in the last several decades. In addition, companies increasingly feel they must promote their image and this has become a major driver of environmental and sustainable development innovations. A good image can help promote both large organizations have attempted to foster intra-preneurships within the company but, increasingly, large organizations are creating small entrepreneurial spin-offs to enhance their capacity to innovate. Hamel (2000) offers suggestions for larger firms to become incubators of innovation (internally, externally, and via appropriation) and sees no inherent contradiction in being both a large and an innovating organization.
Organizational Impacts and Desired Performance Results
Undoubtedly organizational innovations will cause some level of change but the extent and effect of this change is no longer a given. In Schumpeter’s original sense of this term, an innovation by definition had a substantial economic impact. An innovation was something that changed the market place in a profound way. The innovating organization was, thus, likely to become the new market leader and to gain an immense advantage over its competitors. With the broadening of the term to include small to radical innovations, sustaining as well as discontinuous innovations, and the capacity to create as well as to quickly adopt new technologies, the impact of innovation is no longer a definitional issue. The impact of innovations has become an empirical for a company to be good at innovation and that, as Hamel (2000) claims, companies need to focus on developing innovation as a core competency. But there are some indications that even those companies that are good at innovation may experience problems in the long run. Christensen (1997) notes that great companies that have sustained innovation over a long period of time can, and do, fail. He refers to this as the innovator’s dilemma, which is the title of his insightful book. As he explains, this dilemma results from the rational business practices of focusing on the most promising markets and listening to one’s customers. Focusing on the most promising markets and listening to its customers can blind a company to discontinuous innovations that, though they may not have a promising market in the near term and may not currently perform as well as the existing, highly perfected products, may nevertheless transform the market in a way that progressively displaces the incumbents. A key feature of this displacement process is that the emerging or transforming market is incompatible with the incumbent’s business requirements (size of project, price, profit levels, facility characteristics, and staff skills).
To combat this dilemma, innovative companies can try to focus on discontinuous as well as sustaining innovation. An established company can attempt to identify and develop discontinuous innovations, especially through spin-off organizations that are not bound by the contingencies that govern the larger firm. However, this strategy will not ensure that the company will be successful in identifying the next major innovation to affect that industrial sector. An established company can also actively scan potentially relevant developments in order to make sure it responds to and adapts to potentially threatening new technologies in a timely manner. In may be that an established firm, even if aware of potentially threatening changes in its environment, will not be able to change fast enough or dramatically enough. In these cases, the best strategy seems to be for the organization to create a separate organizational entity that has a business model appropriate for the emerging market and external environment.
Adoption by Individuals
People are not passive recipients of innovations. Rather and to a greater or lesser extent in different persons, they seek innovations, experiment with them, evaluate them, find or fail to find meaning in them, develop feelings positive or negative about them, challenge them, worry about them, complain about them, work around them, gain experience with them, modify them to fit particular tasks, and try to improve or redesign them often through dialogue with other users. This diverse list of actions and feelings highlights the complex nature of adoption as a process and contrasts markedly with the widely cited adopter categories (early adopter, laggard) that have been extensively misapplied as explanatory variables. There is little empirical support for these stereotypical and value-laden terms, which fail to acknowledge the adopter as an actor who interacts purposefully and creatively with a complex innovation.
According to Roger’s extensive overview of the wider literature on adoption (1995), there are seven aspects of adopters and the adoption process.
General Psychological Antecedents. We identified a large literature from cognitive and social psychology on individual traits associated with the propensity to try out and use innovations (example tolerance of ambiguity, intellectual ability, motivation, values, and learning style). This evidence has been largely ignored by researchers studying the diffusion of innovations and was beyond the scope of our own study, but it is ripe for review in relation to this research question.
Context-Specific Psychological Antecedents. An intended adopter who is motivated and able (in terms of values, goals, specific skills, and so on) to use a particular innovation is more likely to adopt it (for strong direct evidence, see Ferlie et al. 2001; Gladwin, Dixon, and Wilson 2002; and Yetton, Sharma, and Southon 1999). If the innovation meets an identified need by the intended adopter, he or she is more likely to adopt it (for strong indirect evidence, see Hall and Hord 1987; and Wejnert 2002).
Meaning. The meaning of the innovation for the intended adopter has a powerful influence on the adoption decision (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Dearing 1994; and Timmons 2001). If the meaning attached to the innovation by individual adopters matches the meaning attached by top management, service users, and other stakeholders, the innovation is more likely to be assimilated (for moderate indirect evidence, see Eveland 1986). The meaning attached to an innovation is generally not fixed but can be negotiated and reframed, for example, through discourse within the organization or across inter-organizational networks (for strong direct evidence, see Ferlie et al. 2001). The success of initiatives to support such a reframing of meaning is variable and not easy to predict (limited evidence).
The Adoption Decision. The decision by an individual within an organization to adopt a particular innovation is rarely independent of other decisions. It may be contingent (dependent on a decision made by someone else in the organization), collective (the individual has a “vote” but ultimately must acquiesce to the decision of a group), or authoritative (the individual is told whether or not to adopt it) (Rogers 1995). Authoritative decisions (e.g. making adoption by individuals compulsory) may increase the chance of initial adoption by individuals but may also reduce the chance that the innovation is successfully implemented and routinized (for moderate indirect evidence, see Rogers 1995).
Adoption is a process rather than an event, with different concerns being dominant at different stages. The adoption process in individuals is traditionally presented as having five stages: awareness, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation (Rogers 1995). However, we found that a lesser-known model, the Concerns Based Adoption Model developed for innovation in schools, better explained the findings of empirical studies of complex service innovations in an organizational context. This model provided three components for our model.
Concerns in Pre-adoption Stage. Important prerequisites for adoption are that the intended adopters are aware of the innovation; have sufficient information about what it does and how to use it; and are clear about how the innovation would affect them personally, for example, in terms of costs (for strong indirect evidence, see Hall and Hord 1987).
Concerns during Early Use. Successful adoption is more likely if the intended adopters have continuing access to information about what the innovation does and to sufficient training and support on task issues (i.e. about fitting the innovation to daily work) (for strong indirect evidence, see Hall and Hord 1987).
Concerns in Established Users. Successful adoption is more likely if adequate feedback is provided to the intended adopters about the consequences of adoption (for strong indirect evidence, see Hall and Hord 1987) and if the intended adopters have sufficient opportunity, autonomy, and support to adapt and refine the innovation to improve its fitness for purpose (for strong indirect evidence, see Rogers 1995).
System Readiness for Innovation
An organization may be amenable to innovation in general but not ready or willing to assimilate a particular innovation. Formal consideration of the innovation allows the organization to move (or perhaps choose not to move) to a specific state of system readiness for that innovation. The elements of system readiness are as follows:
Tension for Change. If staff perceive that the current situation is intolerable, a potential innovation is more likely to be assimilated successfully (for moderate direct evidence, see Gustafson et al. 2003).
Innovation-System Fit. An innovation that fits with the organization’s existing values, norms, strategies, goals, skill mix, supporting technologies, and ways of working is more likely to be assimilated (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Gustafson et al. 2003; Rogers 1995; and the related concept of “fuzzy boundaries”).
Assessment of Implications. If the implications of the innovation (including its subsequent effects) are fully assessed and anticipated, the innovation is more likely to be assimilated (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Gustafson et al. 2003; and Rogers 1995). Most of the following implementation issues are amenable to advance assessment and planning:
Support and Advocacy. If the supporters of the innovation outnumber and are more strategically placed than its opponents are, it is more likely to be assimilated (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Champagne et al. 1991; Gustafson et al. 2003; Rogers 1995; and also “champions” ).
Dedicated Time and Resources. If the innovation starts out with a budget and if the allocation of resources is both adequate and continuing, it is more likely to be assimilated (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Gustafson et al. 2003; and Rogers 1995).
Capacity to Evaluate the Innovation. If the organization has tight systems and appropriate skills in place to monitor and evaluate the impact of the innovation (both anticipated and unanticipated), the innovation is more likely to be assimilated and sustained (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Gustafson et al. 2003; Plsek 2003; and Rogers 1995).
Implementation and Routinization
Meyers, Sivakumar, and Nakata define implementation as “the early usage activities that often follow the adoption decision” (1999, 295). The evidence regarding the implementation of innovations was particularly complex and relatively sparse, and it was difficult to disentangle it from that regarding change management and organizational development in general. Implementation depends on many of the factors already covered in relation to the initial adoption decision and the early stages of assimilation. At the organizational level, the move from considering an innovation to successfully routinizing it is generally a nonlinear process characterized by multiple shocks, setbacks, and unanticipated events (Van de Ven et al. 1999). The key components of system readiness for an innovation are highly relevant to the early stages of implementation. In addition, a number of additional elements are specifically associated with successful routinization.
Organizational Structure. An adaptive and flexible organizational structure, and structures and processes that support devolved decision making in the organization (e.g., strategic decision making devolved to departments, operational decision making devolved to teams on the ground) enhance the success of implementation and the chances of routinization (for strong indirect and direct evidence, see Meyers, Sivakumar, and Nakata 1999; and Van de Ven et al. 1999).
Leadership and Management. Top management support, advocacy of the implementation process, and continued commitment to it enhance the success of implementation and routinization (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Green 1998; Gustafson et al. 2003; Meyers, Sivakumar, and Nakata 1999). If the innovation aligns with the earlier goals of both top management and middle management and if the leaders are actively involved and frequently consulted, the innovation is more likely to be routinized (for moderate direct evidence, see Gustafson et al. 2003).
Human Resource Issues. Successful routinization of an innovation in an organization depends on the motivation, capacity, and competence of individual practitioners (for moderate direct evidence, see Gustafson et al. 2003). The early and widespread involvement of staff at all levels, perhaps through formal facilitation initiatives, enhances the success of implementation and routinization (for strong indirect evidence, see Meyers, Sivakumar, and Nakata 1999; for moderate direct evidence, see Kitson, Harney, and McCormack 1998). When job changes are few and clear, high-quality training materials are available, and timely on-the-job training is provided, successful and sustained implementation is more likely (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Green 1998; Gustafson et al. 2003; Meyers, Sivakumar, and Nakata 1999; and McCormick, Steckler, and Mcleroy 1995). Team-based training may be more effective than individual training when the learning involves implementing a complex technology (for moderate direct evidence, see Edmondson, Bohmer, and Pisano 2001).
Funding. If there is dedicated and ongoing funding for its implementation, the innovation is more likely to be implemented and routinized (for strong direct evidence, see Elliott et al. 1998; Fitzgerald et al. 2002; Green 1998; Gustafson et al. 2003; and Hughes et al. 2002).
Intra-organizational Communication. Effective communication across structural (e.g., departmental) boundaries within the organization enhances the success of implementation and the chances of routinization (for strong indirect evidence, see Meyers, Sivakumar, and Nakata 1999). A narrative approach (i.e. the purposeful construction of a shared and emergent organizational story of “what we are doing with this innovation”) can serve as a powerful cue to action (for moderate indirect evidence, see Gabriel 2000; for limited direct evidence, see Bate 2004).
Interorganizational Networks. The more complex the implementation that is needed for a particular innovation, the greater the significance of the inter-organizational network will be to the implementation’s success (for moderate indirect evidence, see Meyers, Sivakumar, and Nakata 1999; and Valente 1995).
Feedback. Accurate and timely information about the impact of the implementation process (through efficient data collection and review systems) increases the chance of successful routinization (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Green 1998; and Grimshaw et al. 2004).
Adaptation/Reinvention. If an innovation is adapted to the local context, it is more likely to be successfully implemented and routinized (for strong indirect and moderate direct evidence, see Gustafson et al. 2003; Ovretveit et al. 2002; and Rogers 1995).
Linkage among Components of the Model
There is some empirical evidence (and also robust theoretical arguments) for building strong links among the different components.
Linkage at the Development Stage. An innovation that is centrally developed (e.g. in a research center) is more likely to be widely and successfully adopted if the developers or their agents are linked with potential users at the development stage in order to capture and incorporate the users’ perspective (for strong indirect evidence, see Rogers 1995). Such linkage should aim not merely for “specification” but also for a shared and organic (developing, adaptive) understanding of the meaning and value of the innovation in use and should also work toward a shared language for describing the innovation and its impact.
Role of the Change Agency. If a change agency is part of a dissemination program, the nature and quality of any linkage with intended adopter organizations will influence the likelihood of adoption and the success of implementation (strong indirect and moderate direct evidence). In particular, human relations should be positive and supportive; the two systems should have a common language, meanings, and value systems; they should share resources; the change agency should enable and facilitate networking and collaboration among organizations; and the consequences of innovations should be jointly evaluated. The change agency should have the capacity, commitment, technical capability, communication skills, and project management skills to assist with operational issues. This is particularly important in relation to technology-based innovations, which should be disseminated as augmented products with tools, resources, and technical help, and so on (for moderate direct evidence, see Lomas 2000; and Rogers 1995).
External Change Agents. Change agents employed by external agencies will be more effective if they are (1) selected for their homophily and credibility with the potential users of the innovation; (2) trained and supported to develop strong interpersonal relationships with potential users and to explore and empathize with the user’s perspective; (3) encouraged to communicate the users’ needs and perspective to the developers of the innovation; and (4) able to empower the users to make independent evaluative decisions about the innovation (for strong indirect and limited direct evidence, see Rogers 1995).
For most organizations, innovation simply means managing the elements of the innovation process and maintaining an innovative culture within the company. Actually, managers have been added the responsibility of managing innovation as the premise for doing business in the 21st century. With the proper handling of such a delicate task, the organization is given the edge that it needs to retain or improve its competitive position in the increasingly complex and globalized market. The challenge of today’s organization, therefore, lies in the need to innovate on technology and business models, deal with uncertain environments, cutbacks and massive worldwide economic, political and social shifts (Daft 2003). This wide array of new concerns for the organization’s management may increase the complexity of doing business in this day and age, but it certainly improves the company’s ability to survive in the cutthroat field of enterprise.