May 2018, « Knowledge: the backbone of innovation processes » by Blandine Laperche and Sophie Mignon

The question of the engines of innovation is not new. When technical progress emerged from the black box in which neoclassical economists had locked it up, the origins of innovation became an issue in contemporary analysis in economics and management science. On the macroeconomic level, endogenous growth scholars have considered innovation as a phenomenon originating in the economic sphere and driven by private and public sector investments. Industrial economists have supplemented the analytical tools with a more institutional approach, based on the identification of the main actors involved in the innovation process and their relationships that form a glue of the isolated elements of the system. Through a set of rules and laws that provide incentives and constraints for private action, states are called upon to build a legal framework of accumulation conducive to the production of knowledge and to innovation.

The managerial theories as well as the micro-economic approaches also place innovation at the forefront of their scientific agenda. In particular, they study the dynamic capabilities of actors and, within them, the absorptive capacities that clearly open the company to its environment. The capture of information, the transformation of information into knowledge by learning mechanisms, the creation of organizational routines, the management and construction of proximity (geographical, relational, cognitive …) between partners involved in innovation processes are key factors of creativity and invention at the business level and crucial steps towards the diffusion of innovation to consumers. Not only the intrinsic quality of the project, but also the personal traits of the entrepreneur (his charisma, his leadership …), as well as his managerial skills are essential to face the risks of the innovation process.

These factors are critical to the success of collaborative innovation, now implemented in all businesses, large and small. It is now accepted that firms no longer manage their innovations alone. These are based on the contribution of several actors: customers, suppliers, competitors, universities, research centers. But open innovation is not easy to implement and especially the sharing and co-construction of knowledge depend on many more elements than the mere signing of a contract! The questions studied by researchers in economics and innovation management are as follows: What types of knowledge (codified or tacit) can be transferred? How to transfer the tacit or rooted knowledge needed for creativity? What is the role of relay/hub actors between two organizations? How do these knowledge exchanges contribute to innovation processes? At what stage are these exchanges the most intense? How to reconcile the exploration and exploitation processes?

By their respective contributions, the articles in these issues of Innovations (Innovation and Cognition I-REMI n ° 55, 2018/1 and Multi-Scale Innovation I-JIEM n ° 25, 2018/1) feed the reflection on the engines and the inter-organizational / individual dynamics between actors (users, suppliers, competitors) engaged in an innovation process.

April 2018, « Social Business and Innovations » by Pascal GLEMAIN* and Nadine RICHEZ-BATTESTI**

Over the past twenty years, we have witnessed an inflation of the social or solidarity qualifiers to name the company, the economy or the forms of responsibility …, often blurring the representation of what we call in France the “social and solidarity economy” (ESS). Thus the social enterprise and its english version Social Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Economy … are all expressions that are confusing. However, these « new » words cover realities that are important to understand and that affect the social economy, in terms of the new devices and organizations that it promotes (activity and employment cooperatives, solidarity-based finance, social innovation …),  and of the economic models that underpin it (race to size, social impact contract).

The debate on social enterprise is not new, but it takes a more radical and polarized dimension with contemporary debates a) on the enterprise, b) on the renewed modes of production and governance of social goods and services in place of public actors, and c) on the dissemination of managerial standards from the lucrative private sector. To the hybridization of the principles of exchange mobilizing the market, the State and the reciprocity, we see on the opposite the regulatory capacity of firms and of the market and the predominance of the economy at the expense of joint regulation in which debates on political and social choices are essential. The excesses of the commodification of the social are multiple. Social innovations are fragile … Experiences at the territorial level nevertheless seem to be promising and the new financing tools (endowment funds, participatory finance …) are very popular. In a context of radical uncertainty, the social economy and the social enterprise do not escape the ambiguities of emerging regulations and the massive changes in their ecosystem, in the companies that drive them and the financial models that support them.

The issue of Market and Organizations https://www.cairn.info/revue-marche-et-organisations-2018-1.htm jointly addresses the renewal of entrepreneurship and financing modes directly or indirectly affecting the “social and solidarity economy”.

*LiRIS, EA 7481, Rennes 2 University and CERMi – pascal.glemain@univ-rennes2.fr

**University of Aix Marseille and LEST-Cnrs- nadine.richez-battesti@univ-amu.fr

March 2018, « Systemic analysis, knowledge management and innovative SMEs » by Pierre Saulais*

Organizational innovation in innovative SMEs can be elaborated through different axes that require both a prior reversal of thinking, an ability to apprehend complexity, and a strong support from the corporate management team.

In a firm with intense knowledge activities, one of these axes can take the form of a corporate project consisting in designing and deploying in the SME a global knowledge management plan (KM) shared by all the actors by injecting  » the KM spirit” within them. The challenges of KM are to ensure the development, sustainability and effectiveness of the strategic knowledge of the innovative SME, in order to maintain the quality and relevance of its expertise, in an anticipatory vision of needs and to promote the transfer of knowledge between the actors.

In addition, companies with a « start-up spirit » are predisposed to optimizing the benefit of the systemic approach, the implementation of which constitutes a second axis of organizational innovation. Systemic analysis has the capacity to take into account the whole system integrating an individual, an element or a problem considered, in order to apprehend it by the interactions that it maintains with the other elements of the same system. In this, it allows to take on something that appears both complex and familiar, like our relationship to a corpus of knowledge.

Furthermore, taking into account the dimension of creative stimulation brought by the methodological principles of intellectual property as regards its approach of identifying originality and inventiveness represents a third axis of organizational innovation.

These different axes of organizational innovation are proving to be rich in operational applications, for instance in problem solving, in building entrepreneurial value systems, in systemic modeling of industrial activity, in learning systems, in reasoned system of knowledge.

See the special issue of the journal  Technology & Innovation: http://www.openscience.fr/Numero-1-365

* Institut Mines Telecom and IKI-SEA (Institute for Knowledge and Innovation South East Asia, Bangkok University)

February 2018, « Third Places and Coworking » by Sophie Boutillier

Emerging in the early 2000, the coworking movement, or collaborative workspace, emerged in San Francisco in the Californian universe of Web 2.0 and free software. The spaces of coworking are defined as “third places”, according to Oldenburg’s definition, which take place between the living space and the working space, as for example coffee shops or libraries where young innovative entrepreneurs meet to develop their project.

Thus the coworking would be a new mode of work organization based on a sharing working space, developed to promote exchanges and synergies between coworkers, and to promote innovation. The coworking is generally presented as a new revolution of work organization, as the Taylorist and Fordist revolutions at the beginning of the 20th century. While the worker of the 20th century was a robot-worker, placed in the incapacity to take initiatives, the worker of the 21th century would be creative, autonomous, flexible and responsible working in an open and collaborative space. Thus the spaces of coworking should be working spaces encouraging innovation under all its forms (product, process and organizational) in, a friendly working atmosphere, generally thanks to new technical tools, such as FabLabs and 3D printers.

These spaces of coworking can be created according three different ways: 1/ by local authorities who consider it a solution to push local economic activity, to create jobs and to promote entrepreneurship; 2/ by Schumpeterian entrepreneurs who have detected in this phenomenon a new entrepreneurial opportunity. In the media and in the Web, a lot of advertisings try to attract new coworkers thanks to low rents and user-friendly working spaces; 3/ by multinational firms, such as Microsoft, Google or Pepsi, which create in big cities free coworking spaces under an open innovation strategy, to pick up new ideas and innovations. So by these different ways, the creative capacity of coworkers is captured by big firms and Schumpeterian entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, spaces of coworking do not attract only individuals with high capacity to innovate, but also individuals who are looking for a job, and who create by this way their job. In these conditions, synergic relations between coworkers do not exist. If coworkers can talk with each other about their projects in the cafeteria, the place of coworking gathers individuals with independent careers. In this context, synergic relationships do not exist.

What is, in these conditions, the creative and collaborative revolution announced? In reference to the system of louage during the 19th century, before the development of mass paid work, number of individuals are looking for a hypothetic employer, only technical tools are changed. The coworking spaces are multiplying around the world to attract the innovative capacity of some, while others, without paid job, create their own job. On the other side, Fordist enterprises always exist. This way of work organization has extended form industry activities to services activities since many years. Under the current productive system, the old and modern forms of work coexist, as well as the different means to capture the created value.

*Clersé, University of Littoral Côte d’Opale, France / Research Network on Innovation

January 2018, “Creative rationality and innovation”, by Joëlle Forest*

Since the last 15 years, financial support to innovation provided by public authorities, estimated today at ten billion euros, has been doubled in France. This support is extended to serve a national ambition that aims, on the one hand, to revive the economy and resume the path of prosperity in a context marked by growing international competitiveness and, on the other hand, a way of meeting the major challenges of our contemporary world (climate change, increasing scarcity of resources, health issues or the aging of the population). Unfortunately, we must mention that the multiplication of measures (we have apparently gone from around 30 support mechanisms in the 2000’s to 62 today) is not producing the expected results.

What then should be done to go beyond the stage of commanding innovation and to build an effective capability to innovate?

We will have to innovate in our way of thinking about innovation. More precisely, if, in 2014, 70.2% of the allocated state support related to the growth of private R&D capacities, it is because the conception of public policy in France is based on the linear innovation model inherited from J. Schumpeter. But this model has limits. The challenge is to think of innovation from its central process, namely the design process. Then it is possible to consider other possible means of action.

Adopting an artificialist perspective, the focus should be made on the creative rationality, which is the ability to bring together apparently distinct worlds, to find the unthinkable link between different actors like Johannes Gutenberg (the inventor of the printing press) or Bertrand Piccard (the father of the solar impulse project). Creative rationality is a form of thought that invites to knowledge crossing and leads to an adventurous transgression because the combination of knowledge belonging to different universes lead us away from the established norms and paradigms as it can be observe from numerous examples.

To move in this direction, the society must question the capacity of the educational system. The confusion between innovation and entrepreneurship is detrimental: our system is not conducive to knowledge crossing, or even “kills creativity” to quote Ken Robinson. It will then be necessary to rehabilitate creative rationality in the training for engineers. Such rehabilitation leads to the implementation of a “pedagogy of adventure”. It involves the indiscipline of students and teachings. Such pedagogy compels us to devise Human and Social Sciences that are not imported as such from universities, but become meaningful in engineering schools.

This book ends with raising the question of the extent to which the education system favors the deployment of creative rationality. After having caution against the risk of a harmful confusion between innovation and entrepreneurship and following the conclusion of an abundant litterature, this book explains how our education system harms the knowledge crossing and kills creativity to use the wording of sir Ken Robinson. Then the author strives towards the rehabilitation of creativity rationality in the training of engineers. Such rehabilitation leads to the implementation of a “pedagogy of adventure”. It involves the indiscipline of students and teachings. Such a pedagogy compels us to devise Human and Social Sciences that are not imported as such from universities, but become meaningful in engineering schools.

See: Joëlle FOREST, Creative Rationality and Innovation, Smart Innovation, London, Wiley, 2017 ; http://iste.co.uk/book.php?id=1246

This book dispels a number of myths surrounding innovation.

* University of Lyon, INSA Lyon


RNI Editorials

Share Button