Blog Posts

A glimpse of the Innovation Ecosystem

Making the 5Cs Real

Much has been written about innovation in terms of process and ecosystem. Some of this will feature in future postings and much more will be addressed in detail in my forthcoming book Navigating Newness: coaching the innovation mindset with Rebecca Collins, Managing Director of Chapel House Training and Consultancy.

The emphasis in most of this literature on method and process is well-evident and, clearly, is of significant importance. However, it is by no means inclusive. In particular, it pays insufficient attention to the skills and mindset of the people – and thereby organisational culture – required to implement it successfully.

NESTA has undertaken some very important work in the innovation arena, not least by offering insights into the thought and people dimensions so oft neglected.

A contribution which I have found particularly valuable in my work in innovation is NESTA’s conception of the four innovation spaces as illustrated by them below.

NESTA captures in this detailed overview a broad array of the methods, techniques, processes, and initiatives which support innovation, which in itself is a valuable service for those new to the innovation ecosystem. However, of even more value in my opinion, is the overarching framework with which they overlay the landscape. They posit four principal domains of activity which they name:

  • the intelligence space
  • the solution space
  • the technology space
  • the talent space

The comments above regarding the principal focus within the innovation arena being on method, process and implementation is to suggest within the NESTA framework an emphasis – one might argue over-emphasis – on the solution and technology spaces. It is abundantly clear from numerous practical examples how an under-emphasis on, or even a disregard of, the intelligence and talent spaces can lead to poor performance in the innovation arena, or worse still, failure.

For example, many of us could recite examples of innovations which have failed because the innovators plunged directly into the solution space without giving due attention to problem definition, pain points, market appetite, etc, which is the domain of the intelligence space. This is an equivalent manifestation to ignoring the empathise phase and going straight to ideation in design thinking formalism. Equally, a failure to attend to the talent space risks gross inefficiencies, cost overruns or even fail points.

It is instructive, for example, to analyse the budget of a significant innovation project – e.g., a digital transformation programme – within these four spaces and to contrast the relatively large spend in the technology and solution spaces with a smaller spend in the intelligence space, and a smaller-still budget in the talent space:

technology >> solution > intelligence >> talent.

Although I am deeply appreciative of the NESTA innovation spaces formalism, I believe one of its limitations is simply down to its elongated geometry. It helpfully explores how the overlaps operate between pairs and triplets of spaces, but it does not facilitate us to imagine the scenario where all four spaces intersect as suggested below.

This represents but a primitive first iteration on the NESTA model but illustrates the potential innovation sweet-spot that could exist at the centre point. It will be interesting to further develop this revised model to consider the necessary conditions to optimise the impact of the innovation. Watch this space!

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