Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Final Email to the i4i Team

Hello i4i'ers -

This email is the "official" end of the project. It has been a great pleasure to work with each of you during the last few months. We worked hard, yet had fun! We over-delivered and this is good. Here are our final work products:

1. Baloh, P., Jha, S., Desouza, K.C., Kim, J.Y., Awazu, Y., Dombrowski, C. “Building Partnerships for Innovation,” Technical Report, # I4I-I3M-InnovBusPart-1, Institute for Innovation in Information Management, The Information School, University of Washington, October, 2006, 35 pages.
2. Desouza, K.C., and Dombrowski, C. “Six Case Studies on Organizational Innovation,” Technical Report, # I4I-I3M-InnovCases-1, Institute for Innovation in Information Management, The Information School, University of Washington, October, 2006, 30 pages.
3. Dombrowski, C., Kim, J.Y., Desouza, K.C., Braganza, A., Papagari, S., Baloh, P., and Jha, S. “Elements of Innovative Cultures,” Technical Report, # I4I-I3M-InnovCult-1, Institute for Innovation in Information Management, The Information School, University of Washington, October, 2006, 20 pages.
4. Desouza, K.C., Dombrowski, C., Awazu, Y., Baloh, P., Papagari, S., Kim, J.Y., and Jha, S. “Crafting Organizational Innovation Processes,” Technical Report, #I4I-I3M-InnovProc-1, Institute for Innovation in Information Management, The Information School, University of Washington, August, 2006, 35 pages.
5. Desouza, K.C., Awazu, Y., Jha, S., Dombrowski, C., Papagari, S., Baloh, P., and Kim, J.Y. “Customer-Driven Innovation,” Technical Report, #I4I-I3M-CustInnov-1, Institute for Innovation in Information Management, The Information School, University of Washington, August, 2006, 28 pages.
6. Awazu, Y., Baloh, P., Desouza, K.C., Wecht, C.H., Kim, J.Y., and Jha, S. “Opening up Innovation through Information-Communication Technologies,” Technical Report, #I4I-I3M-InnovICT-1, Institute for Innovation in Information Management, The Information School, University of Washington, July, 2006, 16 pages.

All in all, this project has generated over 160 pages of content. The sponsors of the research are thrilled.

With the end of one project, we have the beginning of a new project. I have put a new proposal under review for funding. Should we get the funding, I will be in touch with each of you to join the next effort. The next effort will look at linking innovation to business value and also communicating the value of business innovation.

Thanks once again for all your hard work, and now let us wait for all the papers to get accepted at journals.

Get some rest now and thanks once again for making this project a success!


Monday, October 23, 2006

University of Virginia

Here are pictures from my recent trip to the University of Virginia. I spent time working on the new research ideas that have emerged from our ongoing research projects.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Improvise or Perish

Organizations cannot stay at the same level of skills and competencies. They need to ceaselessly learn, create knowledge, and innovate processes, products, and services to stay ahead of competitors. This is true much more now than ever before, with firms competing with local and global players. Hammonds (2003) has profiled the changing structure of global competition through a case study of Wipro Ltd., an Indian IT services firm.

Wipro, till recently, was primarily in the business of “writing software, integrating back-office solutions, designing semiconductors, debugging applications, taking orders, and fielding help calls”, for companies around the world. Since last few years, it has been facing stiff competition from companies in Bangalore, where Wipro is based, and around the globe which can do low-value IT services for a pittance, i.e. compete on cost and provide equally good services. Wipro has no choice but to move up the service chain. It is aspiring to move to the “high-value services such as consulting, integration, and architecture” and poses threat to the business of established IT consultants like Accenture or EDS in the US.

As we see in the above example, global competition restructures the industry. New, mean, and hungry companies are born every day and incumbents cannot maintain their growth and profitability competing on cost alone. Organizations which fail to innovate and improvise, scale up their processes, products, or services go out of business, as newly born companies take over their businesses. Same fate will befall these new organizations if they fail to learn from their predecessors mistakes. Organizational improvisation is the mantra to break out of this loop of birth and death of organizations. One must not be mistaken, this loop was always there, however, the cycle of the loop has shortened due to globalization.

Cunha et. Al. (1999) define organizational improvisation as the “conception of action as it unfolds, drawing on available material, cognitive, affective and social resources”. The authors stress that improvisation is deliberate and result of a action(s), employing the resources available to the firm. Authors definition of resources are as below:

Material resources: General category encompassing outside the individual and the organizational social system. E.g. information systems, financial resources.
Cognitive Resources: Set of mental models held by the individual members in the organization.
Affective Resources: improvisers emotional state
Social Resources: Social structures present among members performing improvisation.

In sum, organizations need to improvise in the wake of increasingly intense competition. They need to employ all resources, especially their employees, business partners, and customers, in their continual quest for organizational improvisation. Remember, organizational improvisation is deliberate and does not happen by chance.

Cunha, M. P., Cunha, J. V., and Kamoche, K. (1999). Organizational Improvisation: What, When, How, and Why. International Journal of Management Review. September, 1999
Hammonds, K. H. (2003). The New Face of Global Competition. Fast Company, Feb, 67, 90-97.

Elements of Innovative Cultures

We have published our latest working paper – “Elements of Innovative Cultures”

Executive Summary:
Organizational culture is an important determinant of sustained innovativeness and financial performance. Though it is easy to appreciate the important role culture plays in making an innovation successful, it is difficult to change culture. One way of changing culture could be to identify elements of innovative culture and then imbibing the ones relevant to a given organization. In this paper, we have identified, based on past research, eight elements of organizational innovative culture: innovative mission and vision statements, democratic communication, safe spaces, flexibility, collaboration, boundary spanning, incentives, and leadership. We believe assimilating these elements of organizational culture will enable organizations to support and sustain innovative activities.

This paper will be made available to all sponsors of our research via our website –

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Innovation Across Boundaries

On October 10th, 2006, the I3M Research Symposium spent a full day addressing the issues of innovation in business. Symposium participants included people from organizations such as Parsons Brinckerhoff, Washington Mutual, Quellos Group LLC, the Disaster Resource Network, Boeing, NPower Seattle, Casey Family Programs, Nervana, SchemaLogic and Geospiza. University of Washington iSchool and business school faculty members also participated. Dr. Desouza gave a presentation of the innovation process and proposed a model consisting of five stages that capture the innovation process. Those stages were idea generation and mobilization, screening and advocacy, experimentation, commercialization and diffusion/implementation. A panel discussion with business practitioners helped to define innovation, discuss issues of implementing procedures for innovation and revealed several strategies for handling idea screening and incentives for innovation.

The symposium broke into small groups to discuss innovation issues.
Many big questions emerged from this debate, such as: Are process and incremental innovation fundamentally different from creativity and idea generation? Is innovation part of daily practice?

A discussion of the development and instantiation of rigorous Communities of Practice (CoP) at Parsons Brinckerhoff followed. Key themes included the need to reward leaders of communities and the crucial role of injecting business practices into CoPs.

The symposium proper ended with proposals for future research on the topic of innovation in business, presented by University of Washington faculty. A delicious dinner and reception followed.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Shiny New Toys

If you're in search of big ideas and want to see how others have done it, Technology Review has chosen the top innovators under 35 (see The profiles of each of the nominees reveal that by and large, the winner combined two previously disparate technologies in order to create a single, more dominant one.

The top innovator was Joshua Schachter, who created del.ici.ous, the website that allows individuals to tag their bookmarks and thereby organize them and access them from any computer. But the system also does more than that; the folksonomy of tags that emerged provides a way to organize, understand and link across the entire web.

Other cool innovations range from impossibly devious encryption methods (Apostolos Argyris's work disguising data as white noise) to efficient cookstoves designed to reduce wood burning and keep women in refugee areas close to home, and safety (Christina Galitsky's work).
[summary by: Caroline]

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The End is Near

We are in the midst of wrapping up several papers from the research project. These papers will be posted on the following website - LINK. All project sponsors and research participants will have access to these papers. Several of these papers are under review at various management and technology journals. We will be releasing the papers to the general public at a later date. If you have an interest in these papers, please contact Prof. Kevin C. Desouza

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Social Networking and KM

When you look at or, almost every member has hundreds of "friends." Those friends form an extended social network that aids in connections, knowledge transfer, knowledge growth and knowledge dissemination. In other words, social networks contribute to, assist in and sometimes hinder knowledge management. To manage knowledge, you have to know what people know. But what people know often depends on who they know, and who they interact with regularly. Since knowledge is often socially constructed, particularly in an organizational context, being able to map out who knows what and whom through Social Network Analysis (SNA) greatly aids in knowledge management and HR decisions (Patton, 2006). Harnessing the tool of social networking in business can allow an organization to identify gaps in communication and then to encourage fruitful collaboration between similar groups (Patton, 2006).
Problems such as loss of expertise (due to employee attrition or HR decisions), duplicative efforts to address similar problems, disconnected and unproductive individuals and decreased motivation to work can be anticipated and preemptively handled through SNA (Patton, 2006). By tracking collaboration and communication between different individuals, teams, units, branches or offices, management can see the actual information flows in an organization, whether or not that matches organizational charts (Patton, 2006). Furthermore, social network analysis can be made fun and interesting, encouraging cross-organizational collaboration. Even better, that collaboration can be tracked, evaluated and shaped in ways beneficial both to the organization as a whole and for individual employee or team-level development and growth (Patton, 2006).

From: Patton, Susannah. "Who knows whom, and who knows what?" CIO, June 15, 2006. Available:

[Summary by: Caroline]

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quoted in Optimize Magazine - The Wisdom Within

Steve Benton (Executive director of IT at UBS Investment Bank) has written a nice article on crafting Wisdom Networks. There are several quotes in the article from me on the importance of knowledge sharing...CLICK HERE FOR THE ARTICLE

Crafting Organizational Innovation Processes

We have just completed a new report from our project - Crafting Organizational Innovation Processes. Here is the abstract of the paper: Innovation is a crucial component of business strategy, but the process of innovation may seem difficult to manage. To plan organizational initiatives around innovation or to bolster innovation requires a firm grasp of the innovation process. Few organizations have transparently defined such a process. Based on the findings of an exploratory study in over 30 US and European companies that successfully foster innovation, this paper breaks the innovation process down into discrete stages: idea generation and mobilization, screening and advocacy, experimentation, commercialization, diffusion and implementation. For each stage, context, outputs and critical ingredients are discussed. There are several common tensions and concerns at each stage, which are enumerated; industry examples are also given. Finally, strategies for and indicators of organizational maturity around innovation are discussed for each stage. Mature organizations will use an outlined innovation process to create a common framework for discussion and initiatives around the innovation process, and to establish metrics and goals for each stage of the innovation process.

The authors of the paper are: Kevin C. Desouza (The Information School, University of Washington), Caroline Dombrowski (The Information School, University of Washington), Yukika Awazu (McCallum Graduate School of Business, Bentley College), Peter Baloh (Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana), Sridhar Papagari (Dept. of Information & Decision Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago), Jeffrey Y. Kim (The Information School, University of Washington), and Sanjeev Jha (Dept. of Information & Decision Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago).

All sponsors of our research project will receive a copy of the paper on October 11, 2006.