What Gives Innovation Its Stickiness?

by Paul Hobcraft

To achieve success you not only have to have a repeatable process but you have to ensure what is learnt ‘sticks’ so it can be used again and again.

The company we associate the most with when it comes to ‘sticky’ is 3M for its famous invention of ‘sticky notes’. They are used everywhere. Innovation needs more than a simple sticky note though

Motivational Glue leads to stickiness.

Besides ‘sticky’ we need something I’ll call motivational glue. A glue that binds between knowledge and learning to become a series of building blocks for innovation. These motivate us to keep thinking, pushing and developing our ideas into final products or services.

As you know innovation is made up of both tangibles and intangibles. Tangibles are more physical whereas intangibles are often our real hidden assets of knowledge, the intellectual assets that lie within our business. These can be made of firstly, databases, patents (assets that can be sold). Then there are, secondly, ones that can be separated out and sold or spun off (R&D labs, organizational processes). The third and the ones that hold the real huge promise for innovation success are the knowledge and skills within our people- that they alone own.

For many it is the combination of these three that makes up the new balance sheet of the organization- the real value definer, often hidden away and not appreciated for its immense value.

Think also the three capitals, our intangibles, which bind our organizational structures.

These are often discussed as the three capitals- human, structural and relationship/customer capitals. It is the investment made within these that really delivers the future value of an organization- these make up much of the unique competitive advantage they can differentiate one organization from another in its successful outputs.

These three capitals are the essential ingredients upon which an organization’s future success is built and this is why you need a ‘strong’ glue to keep them bound together- my motivational glue.

Within these different capitals lies a set of value streams that need gluing within organizations. These are how you manage the relationships (internal and external), how you attract, embed and diffuse knowledge, how your leadership sets about communicating its vision, its beliefs, its desires.

Then you have the make-up of the culture and its internal values, the reputation and trust an organization conveys, its processes and systems, its reach across different networks and lastly, its ways it sets about building the skills and competences. These make up in diverse ways the hidden value, the differentiators between one organization and another.

The motivational glue has learning as its base component

When we learn we are learning for the future. We need to gain skills in being adaptable, we need to learn from successes and failures and talk about them both and what we learnt. We need to know what skills will improve our performance, what attitudes and behaviours are the ones we can positively take forward and use time and again. The more we gather, absorb, explore and share, the more we advance.

Learning if it stands alone, then you are simply an island of knowledge that actually has little value in today’s world. It is the acting on your knowledge, as an innovation practitioner perhaps, that provides today’s real value. It is using your ‘know how’ to achieve effective action within groups, within your network, your team, your organization. It is making learning work. This is more today framed as social learning.

Social learning is becoming the essential ingredient in our glue today.

What I can see very quickly is how social learning is pivotal for developing going forward. In one article called: “A framework for social learning in the enterprise” by Harold Jarche (https://bit.ly/dlGKGA) he draws on his colleagues within this Alliance to put forward an excellent case for social learning.

He also provides a quote from George Siemens :

“There is a growing demand for the ability to connect to others. It is with each other that we can make sense, and this is social. Organizations, in order to function, need to encourage social exchanges and social learning due to faster rates of business and technological changes. Social experience is adaptive by nature and a social learning mindset enables better feedback on environmental changes back to the organization”

So for me learning, social learning, gives us our motivation- our glue for sustaining innovation.

Innovation is growing in its complexity. To keep pace we have to learn, we have to explore, to absorb and use our knowledge. The more we learn the more we offer value but we need to network and expand our relationships to make good use of this.

It may seem intangible to others but the more we use our learning, push our experiences and demonstrate these, the more this becomes tangible within ourselves and through this experience to others.

We are converting this into an asset that others will value. This becomes our innovating stickiness, the powerful building block for successful innovation to happen and provide our motivational glue to seek out experience repeatedly and offer real learning value to others.

Clearworks - Customers, Connections, Clarity


Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

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