It has been a while since Henry Mintzberg developed his influential work that made us aware of the importance of structures in organization design. To my opinion, Mintzberg’s work was a refreshing change to the world of organization design that until then has been largely influenced by Taylor’s Scientific Management Approach and Henry Ford’s efficiency-based adaptation of that.
As an entrepreneur and lecturer in organization science I find myself still using Mintzberg-related terminology on a regular base: ‘professional organizations’, ‘top management’, ‘middle management’, ‘hierarchy’ or ‘organization charts’. While these terms may be common language in business and as such might be useful in having a common understanding of what we’re talking about, much of it is outdated: organization design has shifted it’s focus over time. Structures are no longer of primary focus in design organizations. In fact, building blocks as ‘middle management’ might only still exist on paper today. Let me show you how the focus of organization design has changed over the years:
As part of a simulation game on innovation management we have been running at universities and in corporate training programs for over 4 years now, we have developed an integrative model for dealing with innovation management on a daily basis. Innovation Management is a strategic activity that isn’t necessarily needed to implement throughly for every company. Mostly large companies have included structured processes that include administrative stages to following the (large number of) project that are in progress and to be able to follow-up on them and calculate the effect of innovation management in general. For smaller companies however, that is not general practice: having such a formal process in place simply doesn’t weigh up to cost efficiencies will generate. But for them, innovation management is just as important – but they rather use a toolkit than a formal process. Based on our 8 Types of Innovation Processes model this is a useful canvas design that makes it easy to start working on formalizing your innovation activities and processes in your organization.
The use of Open Innovation is to a large extent related to the rise of technology. Not only does technology smoothen Open Innovation, also the adaption of new technologies to the core business (model) can be accelerated by participating in Open Innovation networks. In fact, when talking to businesses the questions that they have do almost never directly include the use of Open Innovation as a goal. It’s assumed a logical and necessary step to take when dealing with actual problems. Simply said, many innovation questions that companies have follow the simple pattern: ‘How can we [change something] in order to improve our [business model construct] in line with [trending topic]?’. These are as such practical, design-oriented questions, not about why [something] happens, or what is the effect of [something] but about how to change to adapt to that [something].
In 1990 Kurzweil instantly incubated the way we think about Artificial Intelligence (AI) with his work The Age of Intelligent Machines. While there is now, almost 30 years later, still a long road ahead of us, the technology readiness level of AI is getting significantly closer and many applications are trying to implement AIs state-of-the-art features and starting to accelerate the creation of the Smart Business: AI-enabled organizations that thrive digitally, are hyperconnected (both digitally and physically), use machine learning and cognitive techniques to work smarter and that are increasingly becoming autonomous organizations. In his 2016 book the Fourth Industrial Revolution Klaus Schwab mentions 6 basic technologies that are based on AI and currently impacting business: 1) the Internet of Things (IoT), 2) Autonomous Vehicles, 3) Advanced Robotics, 4) 3D-printing, 5) new materials and 6) the biological revolution.
It has been a while since Henry Chesbrough coined the term Open Innovation and formulated its definition: “combining internal and external ideas as well as internal and external paths to market to advance the development of new technologies.” (Chesbrough, 2003). Over the course of time, the terminology relating with Open Innovation has evolved alongside developments in management literature and practices. Open Innovation as a paradigm on itself is on its quest to touch base outside the academic world. Rather than taking a (technical) process-oriented approach, Open Innovation is now also about Open Business Models (Chesbrough, 2006), Open Services (Chesbrough, 2010) – both from a more strategic perspective – and practical tools (Vanhaverbeeke, 2017) – more from a tactical or operational point-of-view.
This article is an extended book review of The Quest for Professionalism of George Romme, a 2016-published book by Oxford University Press. The book is a one-of-a-kind taking a much needed reflective approach to leadership and a critical note towards the level of professionalism that many of us are approaching the science of management and entrepreneurship with. His work is exceptional, because it integrates major scientific perspectives on management from a holistic point-of-view without getting too descriptive. The book chooses a slightly philosophical approach without getting too abstract. The book takes a slightly life-work approach without giving too much self-credit.
Entrepreneurial thinking is described as one of the most relevant skills for the 21st-century workforce (Bacigalupo, Kampylis, Punie, & Brande, 2016). And for that reason it has become an integral criteria in many prescriptive regulations for (higher) education and in increasing numbers also explicitly and implicitly part of curricula (Saavedra & Opfer, 2012). As opposed to entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial thinking is not necessarily bound to entrepreneurs (to be); it is an essential skill for ‘strengthening human capital, employability and competitiveness’ (Bacigalupo et al., 2016).
A few weeks ago entrepreneur Valer Pop, CEO of LifeSense Group told his startup story to us at the High Tech Campus. After having a successfull career at Holst Centre, Valer decided to start his business with just a small idea: solving unwanted urine loss. He was working on this idea at Holst Centre, but after meeting co-founder Julia Veldhuijzen, Valer and she decided to start up their own business and create specialized medical underwear to help 400 million women worldwide. Early on in the process they gathered an advisor board consisting of 100 women and involved them in the creation process, in both opinion polls and experiments. Right now, LifeSense’s product Carin is an international success. LifeSense’s goal for this year it to be the fastest growing medical company in Europe. Now that’s a goal.
Many of our students work on innovation projects for SME. When asked to organize an ‘open innovation session’, students enthousiastically start to read details about open innovation, open sessions and different ways of creating an open innovation-mindset within SME. We usually point them to the excellent work of Lee et al (2010), an article that points out that SME usually prefer to be open in the exploitative stage of an innovation process (rather then the explorative stage of innovation) and that they prefer sharing risks with strong ties such as competitors, clients and suppliers.
On November 23, I had the honor of giving a talk at the NRC Live event for Education. I was scheduled immediately after Bert van der Zwaan, rector magnificus at the University of Utrecht. Van der Zwaan launched his book that day: the result of sabbatical he and his wife took in 2015. During that sabbatical they traveled the world and tried to speak with as many educational visionaries as possible. It led to the work: The University in 2040, does it still exist?