Dynamic Innovation Explained
Dynamic Innovation is a process that helps people navigate through the uncertainty of developing a breakthrough
innovation, which can be done by pursuing two different paths to success that we call Purposeful Innovation and Emergent Innovation.
(Figure adapted from Cromwell, 2018, see below)
Purposeful innovation is a process that most organizations already use today. First, people spend time finding the right problem to solve, which then guides their search for a solution. In this process, the more time, money, knowledge, and resources people have while developing the solution, the more likely they are to succeed at developing a breakthrough innovation.
Emergent innovation is a completely inverted process that, while effective, has not yet been formalized and implemented in organizations more broadly. In this process, people first spend time developing an idea for a solution, which then guides their search for a problem. Unlike purposeful innovation, the more constrained that resources are while searching for a problem, the more likely that people are to succeed at developing a breakthrough innovation.
Both Purposeful and Emergent Innovation are viable paths to success, but they require different thinking styles, collaboration dynamics, and leadership skills to be effective. Ultimately, most projects require people to dynamically shift between these processes at different stages of development, but these transitions can be fraught with conflict and are difficult to manage. Dynamic Innovation is a process that guides people to use Purposeful Innovation, Emergent Innovation, or a dynamic shift between them over time—as shown in the figure above.
Cromwell (2018). Further Unpacking Creativity with a Problem-Space Theory of Creativity and Constraint. Best Paper,
Academy of Management, Organizational Behavior Division.