5 Cogs of Innovation (Appelo)

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Hong Sun
Management Consultant, Canada

5 Cogs of Innovation (Appelo)

Organizations are complex adaptive systems. They can maximize their innovation and adaptation at "the edge of chaos"— a delicate point between order and chaos. According to Appelo (2011) organizations, to operate in this sweet spot, must develop and maintain a healthy "information-innovation system" that is underpinned by five cogs: Creativity, Motivation, Diversity, Personality, and Knowledge (picture).


  1. CREATIVITY: To be creative is to produce things that are both original and useful. To reach creativity in an organization, managers have to generate a creative environment that stresses the followings:

    1. Safety: Provide people with the freedom to take risks, and acknowledge that failure is OK;
    2. Playfulness: Turn ordinary activities into little games that challenge people's minds, such as a memory competition during a lunch break;
    3. Variation: Offer sufficient variation even in routine work, e.g. meeting in a park, naming a product after an animal, etc.;
    4. Visibility: Make other people's creativity visible, e.g. hanging cartoons on the wall; scattering markers and confetti across the floor, etc.;
    5. Edge: Encourage people to take challenges just out of their comfort zone. Edge discomfort is part of life, it has to hurt a little to have effect.
  2. MOTIVATION: The focus here is on intrinsic motivation—the desire of doing something because it's enjoyable and interesting rather than for the sake of obtaining external rewards. Intrinsic motivation is more important than extrinsic motivation since it addresses innate human desires and serves creativity better, which consequently promotes the organization's innovation. (See List of Intrinsic Motivators)
  3. DIVERSITY (AND CONNECTIVITY): Diversity can stabilize a system and make it resilient to environmental changes; it increases flexibility and feeds innovation. It's important to point out that it is connective diversity that matters the most, meaning that there has to be sufficient common ground among different members in the system to ensure cohesiveness. In the same token, diversity in connectivity has the highest impact on competence and performance of teams, although there is much more to diversity than connectivity, such as gender and color of skin, etc. Therefore, when hiring a new team member, both his connection-making capabilities and his competence need to be checked.
  4. PERSONALITY: Personality is closely related to diversity. Diversity of personalities in an organization stimulates stability, resilience, flexibility, and innovation; on the other hand, there must be enough common ground among different individuals to reach balance and connectivity despite diverging views. Similarly, the personalities of the members in a team need to be both diverse and cohesive, therefore it's necessary to perform team personality assessment once in a while.
    Here is a tip for team leaders—four steps to assess diversity and coherence of personalities in a team:
    1. Take a personality assessment yourself.
    2. Share your own test result with your team.
    3. Ask team members to do a personality test, privately.
    4. Suggest the team members to share their test results with each other, but only voluntarily.
  5. KNOWLEDGE: It's no secret that there's a strong link between innovation and knowledge workers. Knowledge refers to the accumulated information obtained by a person from his environment in the forms of education and experience. An organization produces innovation through transforming the information of its knowledge workers into value-adding new products and services. Knowledge workers can only turn knowledge into innovation when their creativity, motivation, diversity, and personality are appropriately attended to at individual, team, and organizational levels.
The most attention should be given to the first four cogs since the last one—knowledge—can only lead to innovation when the other four are adequately addressed.

Source: Appelo, J. (2011). Management 3.0. Boston, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Professional.

  srinivas
Lecturer, India
 

Clarity of Inner Being and Innovation

According to wisdom of experiential system it has (...)

  Hong Sun
Management Consultant, Canada
 

Clarity of Inner Being and Innovation

@Srinivas: Well said, Srinivas. Your comment remin (...)

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