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The Innovating Collective Invoking, supporting & sustaining the innovation state of mind in organizations & communities

V. Srinivas Illumine Knowledge Resources

Keynote Address at the Global Innovation Forum Organized by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and Forum for Emotional Intelligence Learning (FEIL); 28-29th September 2012.

In this document... unit 1:

From innovation as "products and capabilities" to innovation as "state of mind" > page 2 unit 2:

Building an innovation state of mind - the model >page 4 unit 3:

Invoking innovation behavior >page 6 unit 4:

Supporting innovation behavior >page 8 unit 5:

Sustaining innovation behavior >page 10 unit 6:

The Design Collective Model - a social architecture that invokes, supports and sustains innovation >page 12

unit 1:

From innovation as products and capabilities to innovation as state of mind For any organization/community, the key to its long-term sustainability lies in being able to find ways to design its own response to a complex and changing environment. Further, we have seen that in a country as diverse as ours, where contexts and situations change continuously, the capacity to adapt global solutions to local context becomes an imperative. Most important, at a philosophical level, we as a nation, have, far too long, been looking outside for help. It's time that we find our own answers. This is the background in which our vision of innovation unfolds. The following model presents a 3-level view of innovation, and proposes the possibility of unleashing the "innovation state of mind" in people, as the key to scaling community/organization-wide innovation capacity: what is innovation? Innovation Products

Innovation Capability (methods, tools, processes & training) The Innovation State of Mind

Level 1: Innovation Products Innovation is most commonly understood as 'Innovation Products'. For example, a new i-Phone is an innovation, or a cluster of innovations. You can have great new technologies, new ways of doing things. All of these are innovation products which we see in the world. People use these innovation products, but after a few days products become outdated, lose their relevance for people. They need the next new innovation. So, naturally there will be competition. This understanding of innovation doesn’t give any community or organization a sustainable basis for living and working. 2


Level 2: Innovation Capability At level 2, innovation is seen as a 'skill' or 'capability'. Over the years, several tools and methods are available for teaching and improving innovation. Several models and processes have also been developed to enable organizations in capturing and sharing innovation, rewarding innovation meaningfully, etc. But, experience has shown that these have inherent limits. Typically, out of a group of 50 people, about 3-4 adopt it as a way of life, but most will 'know' the techniques and 'talk' about the techniques, but that doesn’t mean that they have integrated it into the way they respond to situations. Why? Because, innovation practices become a part of their "intellectual toolkit", but not necessarily become part of the way they think and act on a day-to-day basis.

Level 3: Innovation State of Mind Commonly, it is seen that even though managers/people in an organization attend a program on innovation, a few weeks later, on encountering innovation from their subordinates, they do not necessarily respond to it in a positive way. Why? Because, they have learnt how to do things, but their inner being remains unchanged. Something deep inside hasn’t changed in them. So, as people, they remain where they are - stuck in their old ways. This leads us to the recognition of the need to go deeper and do something about the fundamental innovation state of mind of people. Can something be done such that there can be a shift in the state of mind, i.e., the way people think & engage with life at a more fundamental level, so that innovation/design becomes a way of life? Further, even if something can be done, can it be made scalable? This is the possibility in front of us. The obvious payoff is that once there is a large proportion of people with an innovation state of mind, they will context capabilities in new ways, learn the latest techniques, create new products, etc. In short, they will do what it takes.


unit 2:

Building an innovation state of mind - the model While it is useful to know that the innovation/design state of mind has several characteristics; (for example, there are strong co-relations with engaging deeply with problems, with a purposive approach to life, with a willingness to keep one's ego aside when dealing with new ideas & approaches, especially in a conversational setting etc.) here the discussion is more about how to make it happen. Following are three big questions that emerge:

how do we... Invoke...



… the design state of mind in the context of communities and institutions ?

Q.1: How to invoke the innovation state of mind?

We begin by asking, how do we invoke such a state of mind? The keyword is invoke, not train. Training implies “I am giving you something”. Invoking means, “you already have it”. So, we start with a fundamental premise that people have infinite creativity and capacity Unleashing the infinite human potential to create and find answers to challenges

to find answers - in other words, infinite innovation capability inside them. This is the core philosophical construct on which we work with people.



Q.2: How to put into place the conditions in which innovation takes place?

Secondly, once you have invoked them, how do you support or create the conditions so that innovations take place? How






encouraged on a day-to-day basis or an hour-tohour basis in the organization/community? Encouraging and allowing innovation/design behavior to manifest

Q.3: How to support innovation behavior over time?

Third, comes the question of how do you continue to sustain it in organizations over a period of time — through changes in people, changes in structure, changes in operating context, business context etc?

Enabling & nurturing innovation/design behavior on an ongoing basis

We discuss the answers to each of these three questions in subsequent sections.


unit 3:

Invoking innovation behavior In the Indian context, invoking people to take charge of their lives and become creators of their own destiny is the 'Number One' enabler for all forms of change. Architecting this shift from "victim" to "creator" is the first and most important challenge:

invoking means...



creator of my destiny from:


... across the community / organization



The malaise of victimhood in India In our country, there are scores of people who are extremely bright, very strong analytically, capable of solving complex problems, but not capable of awakening their own power from within to take charge of their lives, and change the way things are. They are trapped. In many large organizations, as many as 70-75% of the people carry within them various levels of victimhood – where they believe ‘the system cannot be changed’, ‘the people above are responsible for their destiny’, ‘their teammates are not working well’, ‘circumstances haven’t come together to support them’, etc.

Why victim to creator? The driving insight is that a person who is a victim can never be an innovator. Why? Such a person might come out with a few ideas here and there, but the innovation state of mind remains inaccessible. This happens simply because the minute the going gets tough, such a person will blame someone else for it, and look for the nearest escape route available. So, naturally, such people will never be able to put in the hard work, the engagement, and the struggle that is necessary to cut through their own models of thinking, the structures of the way they work, and cross the bridge to another way of looking at life!


unit 4:

Supporting innovation behavior Once you have got past the initial challenge of innovation, how do you get people to think like innovators? At the highest level, this means that organizations have to support "inside-out" behavior. i.e. they must support behavior which allows the individual to be free in some way. If organizations are going to create architectures around individuals that hold them down, then even though some people are invoked, it doesn’t mean they will get any support in the organization. Therefore, architecting "inside-out" behavior in individuals calls for the creation of an enabling environment rather than a governing structure. That is the fundamental shift: from "structure" to "environment". What we are really asking is, “Is it possible to create design-centric environments, instead of activity-centric structures?� The short answer is yes. The only thing required is systematic effort, in the following 3 areas:

supporting requires a series of changes...

governing structures

enabling environments









... to be made by the community / organization



Rules to Tools The first big change is that organizations stop giving rules and start giving tools to their people. Today,







'architectures of rules' so that you are able to get your work done. We are saying ‘No!’, you need to let people

Focus on unleashing dynamic play

Focus on getting work done

free a lot more than they are. And you need to give them tools which are dynamic, which they can use and play with.

Structures to Spaces The second change is to move from structures that demand work, to spaces that demand responsibility. Structures demand output and results

Spaces demand contributions, responsibility and ownership

This is a big difference. It means cultural shifts in organizations/communities where they demand from the individual: ‘not output’, ‘but contributions’, ‘not results’, but, ‘responsibility’/ ‘ownership to find the answers for all’, etc. This shift in

demand means that one who is demanding (viz, the organization) also needs to have shifted.

Controls to Protocols The third change is where you move people from control systems to protocols. What is the difference between controls and protocols? Controls are the systems of governance, i.e. checks and balances that organizations set so that people don’t go astray. Protocols are the set of guidelines that people set for themselves so that they are able to work in a way that is likely to unleash the good within them.


Protect people from going astray

Enable people to unleash the possibilities within themselves

unit 5:

Sustaining innovation behavior Sustaining means that, first and foremost, as a system or as a group of people, everyone needs to agree that they are evolving. Most of the time organizations are either obsessed with growth, or with stability. However, design seems to take place in organizations, who, for some periods of time, are able to create a balance between growth and stability. They synthesize the two, not compromise one of the two. Not, “I’ll do a little bit of growth, a little bit of stability”, but asking, “Can I synthesize the two and take it to a different level altogether?”

sustaining means...

evolutionary pathways growth (structure and evolution)

stability (functional and personal)

... embarking on a journey of collective evolution

modelling collective evolution:

There are two kinds of stability. One, people's functional stability, their competencies, their role stability; and two, their personal stability as people, i.e. do they feel centered and rooted enough to continue with doing things well? Similarly, there are two types of growth. One, structural / quantitative growth (going from 100 units sold to 5000 units sold); and two, business evolution, where we are changing the nature of our products, the nature of our markets etc. It is a 4-dimensional complex space, comprising two kinds of growth and two kinds of stability, and it is in this space that evolution of the innovation / design state of mind needs to be mapped out.



This new level is where you acknowledge "evolutionary pathways" for your people - that the front-end staff or service staff may be evolving at a slower pace, some leaders may be evolving at a much higher pace, some middle management people may be evolving at a lower pace, etc; and map out those evolutionary journeys: So, sustaining requires the organization/community to develop a vision for how evolution will take place, and how people are going to be helped to walk the journey. When people know that their fundamental journey is evolution, then they are able to resolve the dichotomy between stability and growth.


unit 6:

The Design Collective Model - a social architecture that invokes, supports and sustains innovation In order to invoke, support and sustain innovation on a day-to-day basis and in a scalable manner, there is a need to create new "social architectures" that will help people move into living in an innovation state of mind. One example of such a social architecture is The Design Collective Model, developed by Illumine, which views almost any organization, institution or community as a potential knowledge-creating system, where the design / innovation state of mind can flourish and create value.

The DESIGN COLLECTIVE model: a social architecture that invokes, supports and sustains the design / innovation state of mind...


About Illumine Illumine is a research lab, based in Mumbai, that works on solving fundamental knowledge failures in society. We envision and design "precision knowledge interventions" that can be introduced into an organization without major structural / process upheavals. Illumine has a point of view. We seek to build a citizen society where institutions and collectives realize their full potential as engines of personal, social, and economic change. We have co-created sustainable knowledge-based solutions with a number of visionary partners; creating impact on scales ranging from 2,000 to more than 2,00,000 people, with some of the biggest organizations of the country, in a variety of sectors - private, public, government.

illumine lab: Envisioning Lab: 3, Khurshed House, 604-D, Lady Jehangir Road, Dadar (East), Mumbai 14, India. Ph:+912224171008.


Actualization Lab: Illumine Lab Building, 16-A1, Sindhi Colony, Sion (West), Mumbai 22, India. Ph:+912265237838.

The Innovating Collective  
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