The Innovation Superhighway: Harnessing Intellectual Capital for Collaborative Advantage

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The Innovation SuperHighway:
Harnessing Intellectual Capital for Collaborative Advantage
By Debra M. Amidon
Release date: November 2002
ISBN: 0750675926
Butterworth-Heinemann 2002
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"The Innovation SuperHighway is an invitation to us all to
roll up our sleeves and co-build a new foundation
for a world economy..." -Dr Charles Savage

Collaborative Foreword by Leif Edvinsson, Hubert Saint-Onge, and Joachim Doering

Leif Edvinsson (Sweden) Hubert Saint-Onge (Canada) Joachim Doering (Germany)

August 2, 2002
We are now embarking upon the Knowledge Economy; in fact, we have all played a role in its evolution. The opportunities are numerous and the managerial challenges multifold. The Future is just beyond the bend; and how are we equipped to take advantage of the opportunities? Do you see it…and have you envisioned your own role in it? Debra M. Amidon has outlined the ‘future as an asset’, which goes well beyond the traditional, Tayloristic forms of management.

In previous publications as a pioneer of innovation, Debra has defined the core principles and outlined a methodology for innovating enterprises. In this new publication – The Innovation SuperHighway, she defines the critical steps in envisioning our future. In essence, will we see the future as an asset or a liability? Amidon outlines a constructive path forward.

The news stories of the present are full of stories of financial crises, failures and fraud. It is also sometimes referred to as the time of institutional failures, as phrased by the founder of VISA Mr. Dee W. Hock. We evidently have to step back like the impressionists and Claude Monet - what Amidon defined in her first book - and try to see and reshape the larger pattern. This is also what Amidon is offering in many ways in her work with Entovation - enterprise innovation – an enterprise comprised of theorists and practitioners from around the world. She understands the global Gestalt and where it is going; with her words and collective wisdom, she illuminates our direction.

She is also accompanied by a group of thought leaders called the Entovation (E 100), among who Dr. Thomas F. Malone is saying: “We are at a historical choice point – a defining moment – in determining the kind of world our children will inherit. If we make these choices based only on the models of our industrial age past, we will almost certainly miss the true opportunities before us.” We must learn to convert the future into an asset, not a liability, by addressing the opportunity cost of not innovating and continuously renewing.

Debra’s assumptions are based upon a new Knowledge Value Proposition beyond cost, quality and time. There are many facets of the emerging future to be systematized and leveraged. Knowledge economics is one of the major patterns, contrasted by the present stories of the financial economics of failing institutions, where the economies seem to be shadowed by the lack of perspectives and insights behind the new intangible economics and intellectual capital. If we miss the perspectives, we might be the victims of impoverishing ourselves by forgetting the heritage. Our future always begins with an investment into what we now call the ‘hidden value’ of the firm. The core of the knowledge economics is knowledge innovation, or the capacity to shape future opportunities. It is think-oriented instead of thing-oriented. It is a momentum of natural evolution. It can also be referred to as a process of knowledge navigation, i.e. a quest for the enlarged and knowledge explorative learnings of the not knowing. More and more today labeled as complexity systems, chaordic systems and bio economics. Transaction values are replaced by interaction values.

Similarly, the new proposition is a function of the behavior of the organization – best exemplified by the emergent communities of knowledge within which new leadership lies. Now, we are dependent upon a new trust-led leadership based upon values of openness, knowledge-sharing and respect for the competencies of one another. Interdependence takes on new meaning between functions, sectors, industries and even nations. Value is created in the interconnections and fostered through the quality of conversations – virtually and face-to-face. No longer are we limited by the hierarchical, control policies of the past. Our future depends upon our capacity to share leadership, listen to the inquiries of others and be courageous in our ability to take responsible risk, and create cultures of knowledge-sharing. Dare we build institutions that seek collaborative – not competitive – advantage?

The Innovation SuperHighway is by definition global. The emergent technology removes all geographical boundaries. The full potential of these global networks for innovation largely remains untouched and unexplored. Debra maps it all out for us, a bit like explorers started to produce maps of the New World. The new innovation highway is comprised of a series of cross disciplinary forums where the quality of the conversation enabled by the technology and the forever expanding bandwidth is providing an unprecedented platform for innovation. Organizations that miss getting on the train will be irremediably left behind.

The Information SuperHighway was perceived as a vehicle of information, computers and technology. Within few years, it is obvious that the highway is actually one of social networks in addition to the technical infrastructures. Only through the motivations of people can the ‘network’ come alive; and only with the technology can the cultures of nations – industrialized and developing – realize their full potential.  Amidon is right – the innovation process is what brings knowledge alive and puts it to work. Further, she has illustrated how the technology is only as useful as how it is used…and our sustainability as a world is only as effective as is our weakest nation. We now know that innovation is not a function of the technology and that knowledge is what drives the enterprise forward. Debra has placed innovation the central topic of enterprises. More important, she realizes the value of decentralized (and yet) networked organizations – something many big organizations are forgetting as they attempt to control the innovation process.

Once again, Amidon has moved the finish line – and appropriately so - to stretch our imaginations of how we might architect our future. She has been the guardian of the knowledge movement and with this publication steers our efforts toward profitability and prosperity. This can be viewed as a time element - the longitude dimensions of an organization. In other words, a lateral networked collaborative brain expands the frontiers for new knowing by knowledge insourcing knowledge through new alliances. We’ve more to gain from learning from, rather than defeating one another. Amidon’s original concept of Ken – having the knowledge AND a range of vision to apply the knowledge – shape our current concepts of Intellectual Capital – something she was publishing in the early 1980’s.

But do not take it from Amidon alone. This book is rich with the insights and observations of several around the world that also believe that a new world is emerging and we all have a role to play.

This might be called intelligent enterprising, as well as innovative societies. The Innovation Superhighway provides a tangible highway to serve as the multiplier of intangible value - the networked competence for shared prosperity. It offers to leverage the local human capital – primarily the component of the brain such as intellect, insight and imagination – multiplied by the global technology tools often called structural capital, into a growth spiral of innovative value and wealth creation. This will result in emerging intellectual capital, on individual level, enterprise level as well as society level.

Innovation is what gives purpose to the exchange of knowledge. Innovation is the outcome of a knowledge-based interaction. Innovation is about shaping and architecting a desired future. The Innovation Superhighway tells us how this future will unfold and shows you how you can be part of it. As someone who lives and works in global networks, Debra is uniquely positioned to be our guide.

The entovation superhighway is the bridging process of organizational capital on a global scale - a springboard opportunity to be grasped. The longitude value of an organization, enterprise or society is to be found in its capacity to reach out, connect and leverage the collective competence to take advantage of the future. How will the intelligence flow through the logistics of The Innovation SuperHighway? According to Amidon, the opportunity is ours. Are we ready to accept the challenge?

One step toward ‘innovating your future’…

Leif Edvinsson, former Senior Vice President for Intellectual Capital, Skandia AFS, co-author of Intellectual Capital and author of Corporate Longitude (Sweden).

Hubert Saint-Onge, former Senior Vice President of Clarica and co-author of Leveraging Communities of Practice (Canada).

Joachim Doering, Senior Vice President, Information Communications Networks (ICN), Siemens, AG (Germany).

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