Innovation is the Key to Survival

In the western world, and in any other competitive environment, innovation is the key to survival. It is a matter of life and death for companies around the world. Knowledge-creating organizations (including software development organizations) should be focused primarily on innovation, wrote Professor Ikujiro Nonaka in The Knowledge Creating Company.

Well, isn’t that a coincidence…

Innovation happens to be a concept that finds itself at the very heart of my favorite topic: complexity science. Researchers found that complex adaptive systems actively seek a position between order and chaos, because innovation and adaptation are maximized when systems find themselves at “the edge of chaos.


The world’s biosphere came up with innovations like the White-faced Saki Monkey, the Star-nosed Mole, the Pinky Fairy Armadillo, the Aye-Aye, the Frill-necked Lizard, and the Dumbo Octopus. And of course, poodles (which proves that complexity has a crazy sense of humor). They say that complexity –that interesting state between order and chaos– is the root of all innovation, in physics, biology, psychology, and beyond. Only that which is complex can innovate and adapt.

Innovation is a typical bottom-up phenomenon. Publications like Complexity and Innovation in Organizations, and Complexity Perspectives in Innovation and Social Change emphasize that innovation is doomed to fail when launched by upper management as top-down programs of "special" people, assigned with the difficult task of inventing something new. This approach reflects a causal deterministic view of trying to take charge of what’s going to happen in the future. It usually doesn’t work.

The complex systems approach says that innovation is not a planned result, but an emergent result. Innovation just happens in self-organizing teams. But, for things to emerge there has to be something to emerge out of. And the key ingredients for innovation are: knowledge, creativity, motivation, diversity, and personality.

More about this in future blog posts…

(image by spigoo)

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