Friday, 26 October 2007

How to Manage Complex Innovation.

Complexity in terms of up-scale, intricacy, and the increasing number of sub-systems has been noted as a prime sandbag, and often acute limit on many fields of technological and systems innovation. Hyperinnovations build an ever higher mounting for organisations to climb.

This is known as The Wall.

NASA, Airbus and IBM are working with their nose flat against The Wall.

NASA’s ‘Mission to Mars’ includes the development, integration, qualification and commission of 10s of 1000s of technological sub-systems.

Airbus’ A380 dual deck airliner has over 10 million components that have to fit and function to peak aerospace standards.

IBM’s Bluegene/Peta-FLOP supercomputer integrates 100’s of Pentium microprocessors.

Molecular chemists and their retrovirus pharmaceuticals, software hackers and their code length, telecoms engineers and the connection models, even CEOs and their strategic alliances, join the pack.

So what to do?

Work harder? Redouble efforts? Put the pedal to the metal?

A common error when toiling to heat up the pace of innovation in the face of increasing complexity, is to load more agents. That’s more staff, more managers, tighter control, stricter rules, more policies, ever sophisticated technologies, fatter resources, and a bank load more financial capital, in an attempt to increase effort and raise output.

This might be a correct action for a highly certain, steady-state, linear process, like counting the number of books in a library. In this case, for every agent added, there is a significant increase in output.

Innovation, and especially multidimensional innovation, is, however, a highly uncertain and acutely interactive process.

The point?

The more agents employed, the greater the number of interactions and communication passes there are. There is a point where for every extra agent added, there is a decline in productivity, which ultimately adds to the complexity of the innovation that it was intended to advance.

The answer to managing n-dimensional innovation at a faster pace, is not to add yet more agents, but to innovate multidimensional management systems. They are smarter, simpler, integral, and exactly suited for Hyperinnovation.

My book Hyperinnovation describes such a management model. See sidebar for table of contents and excerpts.

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