The power dynamic

Politics plays a key role in the creation on the new.

There is a concept that's widely used and talked about in progressive business circles, which I think is hugely misleading.

An 'innovation ecosystem' is a pleasant sounding term that stirs up a mental image of diverse actors, harmoniously working together in equal parts to create magical new ventures.

It's almost as if Andrew Lloyd Webber is about to cast this friendly lot in his next utopian Broadway hit..PG13. It's idilic and fictional.

In 'real life', impactful innovation is never incubated in a pretty garden of equal, cooperative actors.

In fact, the reason that producing innovation is so difficult is because innovation is the result of human effort, which is focused on disrupting the status quo in preference for something new and improved.

Humans don't congregate like plants and animals and simply evolve naturally depending on which way the prevailing winds are blowing; humans are social beings where intangible relational systems of power, authority, class, rank and hierarchy dictate how outcomes are created.

If you have ever facilitated, or been a part of, a brainstorming session - you will be very well aware of just how disruptive a late-arriving senior executive (especially one with power) can be to the progress that has already been made in the session by the majority of participants.

Power wielding during the process of innovation is real and fatal. You can't really achieve progress without power; or too little power, or power which is pulling in the opposite direction.

The reality is that achieving innovative growth is as much about ideas and execution as it is about navigating and manipulating political power structures.

Understanding where more power is needed, where power needs to be weakened, where work needs to be done to get the power in the room 'on-side' - are critical elements of innovation that are often completely overlooked by 'innovation science' and those that explore the theory of innovation.

You can literally hire the best innovators in the world and have them fill your ranks, but without a plan as to how to pull the critical power strings to enable your vision, your innovation efforts are almost guaranteed to be a waste of time.

Innovation is a collective effort; that effort is the result of a dynamic flow of energy and power within a community.

Let's stop talking about sterile and misleading constructs like 'innovation ecosystems' and rather call them what they really are: dynamic innovation communities filled with complex unequal actors who find themselves at varying stages of consciousness development.

In other words - innovation is as much about politics as it is about structure and process.