Rethinking innovation in organizations through coevolving systems theory

Professor Richard Vidgen Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales will be leading this seminar at the UoB Systems Centre on 1st June at 1700

Research into high performing workplaces identifies the ability of organizations to innovate as a significant indicator of financial performance. Unsurprisingly, innovation is of great interest to governments. Despite this interest from firms and policy-makers it is less clear how organizations can organize to encourage, generate, and capture innovation.

This paper develops an innovation organizing framework grounded in complex adaptive systems. The framework draws on three principles of coevolving systems: match coevolutionary change rate, maximize self-organizing, and synchronize exploitation and exploration. The last principle suggests that innovation should not be viewed in isolation, i.e., to talk about innovation (exploration) we must also talk about operational aspects (exploitation). Although this even-handed approach to innovation has been reported widely in the management research on ‘ambidexterity’, the organizational/organizing aspects are less well explored. The coevolving systems principles are illustrated through application to the new product development process, in which customers and products are viewed as coevolving species.