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How to design a great technology innovation center

Are you ready to set up an innovation center? Learn about the four components needed to design one with an adaptive ecosystem.

Are you the head of innovation for a government or an organization that is ready to set up an innovation center? If so, you might share the opinion of CEOs who identify themselves as eager to lead change within their industries. In fact, a majority of CEOs consider their companies industry pioneers or fast followers. This means they recognize that acceleration is a fundamental component of their business success.

Many actions must be completed correctly to succeed in building an innovation center. Some of those actions include being good at:

  • Generating and appraising new ideas,
  • Checking and nurturing select ideas quickly, and
  • Commercializing those ideas.

While performing these actions, organizations must stay within the context of the innovation center's focus. This means concentrating on the areas of competitive advantage, resources, and strategy. This also includes targeting the core operations of the organization, which provides interesting challenges for leadership.

However, and most important, the last consideration involves demonstrating a readiness to deploy adaptive ecosystem components. Such an approach to innovation center design is novel and a game changer. This is due to innovation being based on a "hub model" in the past, where all participants worked around a leader.

An adaptive ecosystem is defined as a conceptual environment that contains learning-by-design factors that capture feedback or can respond to uncertainties that arise within sustainable, integrated management of IT resources. Such an ecosystem requires both imagination and flexibility. Companies that use adaptive ecosystem methodology can work with partners possessing less conventional capabilities.

Adaptive ecosystem components prove beneficial when industry boundaries shift frequently. For example, it can be difficult to predict the expertise required to achieve an adaptive ecosystem. That's why an adaptive ecosystem is best suited for situations where the problem and the solution are uncertain or are still being sorted out.

Innovation centers achieve more with adaptive ecosystem components

Under this new design paradigm, four components are needed to design an innovation center with adaptive ecosystem components. Those are partnerships/relationships, focus, competence and capabilities development, and a system for growth. Let's dive into each component:

1. Partnerships/relationships

There will never be two innovation centers that are structured alike. Each one will—and should—have its own profile, focus, and priorities.

Since innovation itself is a team sport in the digital age, such an initiative requires multiple cooperating players to realize success. That is why genuine partnerships are a key component for making an innovation center truly adaptive. The right partners can help build a foundation that enables digital innovation implementation while obtaining benefits. Note: If an innovation initiative is not organized centrally, it slows the advance of the whole ecosystem. Hence, returns will be limited. More will be said about this later.

As mentioned, identifying required capabilities for innovation can be a challenge. Since exact capabilities are unknown precisely at the onset and will vary over time, it is beneficial to take a fluid approach. For example, hold networking events and invite potential partners (including competitors) and experts from different disciplines. The partners you recruit to the new ecosystem could bring not only capabilities necessary to enable the new business venture but also key insights about how to attract customers. Partners with disparate expertise help to explore future unfamiliar terrain. You never know what set of partners will deliver the next groundbreaking innovation!

To make this partnership ecosystem work effectively, a company that acts as the leader is needed. The leader plays a triple role: focal, broker, and orchestrator. As focal, the leader drives, inspires, or suggests the best direction for the partners, relentlessly gathering, sorting, and selecting inputs to adjust opportunities for greater possibilities. As broker, the leader ensures that the right connections are made between partners and potential customers.

The leader also identifies a common focus, finds connections among the partners and encourages them to work together to identify new or nascent opportunities.

Now that we've outlined the key partnerships and their relationships, let's explore the focus.

2. Focus

Close, supportive collaboration between the leader and the partners is key. As a result, it is vital to establish a focus.

A common focus enables better resource alignment, increases business opportunities, and drives investment decisions. Additionally, a common focus helps to identify competencies needed, enables idea and opportunity generation, and facilitates support of early adopters.

This function tends to work well in stable innovation centers where key issues have already been worked out, making it implicit. In the current business atmosphere of fluid requirements, less-defined objectives, and established practices disrupted by digitalization, this function should be formally established and defined.

Let's now consider the importance of educational institutions in innovation center design.

3. Competencies and capabilities development

To cross the chasm between idea generation and production, as well as to capitalize on early business opportunities that can generate momentum, developing and scaling competencies for immediate application is required.

As a result, educational institutions should conduct joint programs and create curriculums to develop targeted competencies and resources. Early adoption cases will provide an ideal platform for focusing investments, attracting interest in tangible applications.

The availability of an initial critical mass of resources will also act to trigger additional innovation opportunities, making any ongoing practical applications more visible.

4. System for growth

Innovation is not just about innovators.

Incubators play a crucial role in nurturing initial sparks that make innovation possible. This is because innovation involves whole business/economical systems, requiring cooperation between innovators, established businesses, and public institutions. Incubators also facilitate work between clusters of startups and innovators. This enables organizations to cross the chasm between idea generation and realization and gain expected benefits.

The ideal innovation center should connect the system of innovation with the systems of the businesses, startups, and institutions to quickly turn ideas into real production—or stop them immediately to dedicate resources to more promising opportunities.

This approach requires a novel co-innovation model, where otherwise stagnant relationships between parties are turned into full cooperation and each party's role is respected.

To design the greatest innovation center, start here

In the end, it's the responsibility of innovation center leaders to make sure that plans—in this case, those related to innovation—are successfully executed across a number of diverse players. Thus, an emphasis on understanding these issues and putting the right people in charge is key.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise brings unique strengths to innovation center design using its Digital Life Garage. For example, the company provides key technology players that bring more value. HPE has a long, consistent reputation of cooperation, and its Digital Life Garage business model strongly relies on cooperative partnerships. That is why an innovation center model, through the Digital Life Garage model, ensures active and focused ecosystem component deployment. In addition, through its Digital Life Garage, HPE provides credibility while addressing the specific needs of your local development program, providing value to all parties involved. In today's innovation center, you not only need to desire innovation but must also deploy and operate, which requires scale, resources, and incentives. Let HPE partner with you, using its Digital Life Garage.

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This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.