Between networks and communities : challenge for an optimal innovation structure

Koen, Lourens (2012-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The world economy has over the last few decades rapidly moved from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, creating a new business reality. Organisations have increasingly realised the importance of innovation as it has become the main sources of their competitive advantage. Innovation networks and communities of practice are two areas of inquiry of interest to organisational management, especially when innovation is an important organisational goal. These two areas are separated by different foci, assumptions and approaches. For this reason they are often seen as opposing approaches to enabling innovation. The thesis argues that whilst innovation networks and communities of practice are different structures, they have complementary roles to play in innovation. It is shown that innovation networks possess the structural attributes, according to three network concepts, necessary to facilitate and support exploration, as well as allow the large-scale diffusion of information and knowledge. In the same sense, communities of practice are shown to possess the structural attributes for exploitation, as well as implementation and small-scale diffusion, to take place which are also required for successful innovation. Subsequently, the argument is that combining the structural elements of innovation networks and communities of practice may allow organisations to move closer to the optimal innovation structure of a particular context, leading to improved innovation performance. Innovation networks and communities of practice exhibit different sensitivities to management which requires management to be more flexible and subtle when trying to facilitate their creation and development. Creating an optimal innovation structure, just as innovation networks and communities of practice individually, requires organisations to create an enabling context for them to thrive in. Consequently, management is required to exhibit a dual focus on network and community facilitation and support in order to improve innovation. The practical question then becomes to what extent management interventions in aid of the one structure are counter-productive for the other. The challenge is to direct networks in order to gain access to novel knowledge as well as diffuse it throughout the network, whilst at the same time enabling communities to develop in aid of proper exploitation, small-scale diffusion and implementation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die wêreldekonomie het oor die laaste paar dekades vinnig van 'n industrieel geörienteerde na 'n kennis geörienteerde ekonomie verander en gevolglik 'n nuwe besigheidsomgewing vir organisasies geskep. Organisasies het toenemend die belangrikheid van innovasie besef soos innovasie die hoof bron van 'n organisasie se kompeterende voordeel geword het. Innovasienetwerke en praktykgemeenskappe is twee areas van ondersoek wat van belang is vir organisatoriese bestuur, veral wanneer innovasie 'n belangrike organisatoriese doelwit is. Die twee velde verskil op grond van hul uiteenlopende fokuspunte, aannames en benaderings. Gevolglik word hul as teenstrydige benaderings tot innovasie beskou. Die tesis beweer dat alhoewel innovasienet-werke en praktykgemeenskappe verskillende strukture is, hul komplementêre rolle in innovasie vervul. Dit word gestel dat innovasienetwerke oor die nodige strukturele eienskappe beskik, op grond van drie netwerkkonsepte, om die ondersoek vir nuwe kennis te fasiliteer en ondersteun asook om die grootskaalse verspreiding van inligting en kennis aan te moedig. Terselfdertyd word geargumenteer dat praktykgemeenskappe oor die nodige strukturele eienskappe beskik om ontginning van bestaan-de kennis te bevorder, asook om die implementering en kleinskaalse verspreiding van nuwe kennis aan te moedig wat ook benodig word om die proses van innovasie te voltooi. Gevolglik word daar geargumenteer dat die strukturele kombinering van innovasienetwerke en praktykgemeenskappe organisasies kan help om nader aan 'n optimale innovasiestruktuur in elke spesifieke konteks te beweeg, wat innovasieprestasie moontlik sal laat verbeter. Innovasienetwerke en praktykgemeen-skappe toon verskillende sensitiwiteite tot bestuursingrype wat bestuurders dwing om meer buigsaam/veelsydig en subtiel op te tree wanneer hul die ontwikkeling van dié strukture probeer fasiliteer. Die ontwikkeling van 'n optimale innovasiestruktuur benodig, nes innovasienetwerke en praktykgemeenskappe, 'n omgewing wat dit in staat sal stel om daarin te floreer. Gevolglik benodig bestuurders 'n gesamentlike fokus op beide networke en gemeenskapsfasilitering en ondersteuning om innovasie in hul organisasies te bevorder. Die praktiese vraag is dan tot watter mate bestuursingrype vir een tipe struktuur, teenproduktief is vir die ander een. Die uitdaging is om netwerke aan te moedig om toegang tot nuwe kennis te verkry asook om dit verder deur die netwerk te versprei, terwyl praktykgemeenskappe gesamentlik aangemoedig word om bestaande kennis te ontgin, te implimenteer en te versprei.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/71748
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