Research: “The Innovation Race”

Gaia Grant: Researcher / Staff at Sydney University School of Business. (BA, Dip Ed, BD (hons), Grad Dip of Change Leadership, MSc in Creative Thinking, MPhil / PhD (cand) in Innovation & Culture Change.)

Dealing with organizational sustainability paradoxes in innovative ways


The Paradoxical Innovation Process:
The value of synthesising the paradoxes. Understanding the challenges of innovation journey, from imagination and ideation to implementation. Gaia looks at four key paradoxical pairings related to the exploration/exploitation tension that have been identified as needing to be resolved at each stage of the innovation process (the successful management of these paradoxes ensures the culture for innovation is purpose-driven).

The paradox theory is the latest theory to help organizations embrace change. But did you know that we have traced this as far back as ancient Egypt?  In the first paradox chapter of our book, we explore the principle of ‘guided freedom’, and travel back to Egypt – “to discover that the grand 750 metre causeway stretching from the life giving Nile to the city of the dead desert plateau, in Saqqara Egypt, was built for the sole purpose of accommodating the great King Unas’ funeral procession (2350BC). Remarkably, it captures the tensions of a key paradox revealing distinctive drawings of the extremes of ‘chaos’ up one side of the causeway and ‘order’ along the other.  Guided freedom, can guide us between the extreme of oppression on the one hand and chaos on the other. As an essential starting phase for the process of innovation, we need to build an environment of freedom — balanced with clear guidance and support — that enables open enquiry and provides a platform for growth. Where there is no freedom there can be no initiation of the innovation process,” (The Innovation Race)

The paradoxical innovation pairings that need to be effectively navigated are:

  1. How to liberate a culture for open innovation:
    For creating a solid, long-term foundation for innovation through questioning assumptions, exploring ambiguities and sparking curiosity and imagination
    - Key Paradox: Control vs Freedom (Guided empowerment)
  2. How to initiate the innovation process through open connections for ex ploring diverse ideas:
    For enabling ideation and supporting productive ideas
    - Key Paradox: Focus vs Openness (Targeted openness)
  3. How to motivate individuals and teams to come up with unified solutions:
    For pulling together diverse individual ideas and integrating them into united solutions
    - Key Paradox: Individualism vs Engagement (Collaborative engagement)
  4. How to transform a culture for implementing innovation:
    For testing and prototyping potential solutions and working through to implementation
    - Key Paradox: Stability vs Flexibility (Grounded flexibility)