There has been substantial controversy on whether innovation is planned or unplanned. Both sides have attracted arguments supporting them, as well as arguments discrediting them.
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A careful examination of real life examples of how organizations come up with innovations reveals that innovations are both planned and unplanned. This is the case despite the fact that planned innovations occur more often than unplanned innovations. Both innovations have advantages and disadvantages that complement each other due to the differences in their origin.
Unplanned innovations are innovations in which an organization discovers a new way of doing things in the course of its day-to-day activities. These innovations are not as common as the planned innovations because they are accidental per se. In most cases, they are discovered by a clever individual within an organization, who comes across or thinks of a new way of solving the problems of the organization.
Although these innovations build upon existing knowledge, they have substantial originality and thus they qualify the organization for acquisition of copyrights. In some cases, the individual who comes up with these innovations is not even part of the organization (McNamara, 2010, p. 1). The individual may be a professional who has a passion for problem solving. After identifying a problem common with organizations, the individual may approach the organizations concerned and present his solutions.
Advantages of unplanned innovations
The greatest advantage of unplanned innovations is that they are substantially cheaper than their planned counterpart. This is especially the case if the person who comes up with the innovation is a member of the organizations’ staff. If the innovation is from an outsider, the process is also cheaper since it involves a single individual who can easily be recruited into the organization, or persuaded to sell the idea to the organization.
Another advantage comes from the fact that unplanned innovations are more or less instantaneous. This is to mean that the innovations are not planned in advance and thus they do not take much of the organization’s time. Their implementation is thus time saving, and they do not have the risks associated with planned innovations.
Additionally, unplanned innovations tend to be more successful than planned innovations since, for them to be adopted, their usefulness to the organization must be established. In other cases, the unplanned innovations actually lead to planned innovations since after an individual comes up with an idea, the organization may desire to perform systematic checks of the relevance of the innovation and even repeat most of the steps of innovation carried out during planned innovation.
Disadvantages of unplanned innovations
Unplanned innovations may prove to be disadvantageous to an organization in that it may lack the holistic coverage of issues of the organization. This is because an unplanned innovation is mostly the creation of an individual and thus the individual may overlook important aspects of the organization.
This shortfall is minimized by customizing an innovation after its discovery in order to make it conform to the needs and circumstances of a particular organization. Another disadvantage is that unplanned innovations may be adopted inappropriately in cases where an organization adopts an innovation just because the innovation is available.
This problem comes about because, as stated above, most unplanned innovations are instantaneous and thus an individual may come up with an innovation in an area that does not require change within the organization (Knowles, 2002, p. 49). In such a case, the organization may face a reduction in its productive potential due to implementation of a new mediocre innovation.
This is the most common form of innovation. In this type of innovation, organizations identify the need to have a strategic change in their operations and plan on how to come up with an innovation that will satisfy the need.
Thus the innovation is participatory and it makes it easy for the organization to come up with an innovation that touches all aspects of the organization. In most cases, such an innovation is necessitated by competition from other organizations, and the organization may even be required to make use of prevailing ideas on how to offer services or make certain goods.
In most cases, the innovation is planned and developed by the staff in the organization, but in other cases, the organization may opt to hire a consultant to come up with the problem-solving innovation (Guy, 2010, p. 1). In both cases, the development of the innovation is consultative and thus it makes use of inputs from all stakeholders.
Advantages of planned innovation
Planned innovations are advantageous because they are developed as a response to a need in the organization. Therefore, almost all the planned innovations developed are utilized and have positive results. The positive results are even enhanced by the fact that, unlike unplanned innovations, planned innovations are focused and they have a holistic impact in the organization.
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Another advantage is the fact that it is likely to increase the competitiveness of the organization than its unplanned counterpart. This is because planned innovations take into consideration the shortfalls the organization is experiencing and thus the innovation takes care of those shortfalls in the best way it can.
For instance, if a company realizes that its rival is offering certain services that are making customers prefer the goods/services of the rival, the company can come up with a strategic innovation of providing other related services in order to gain a competitive edge (Anderson, 1992, p. 37). Therefore, planned innovations are more likely to increase the competitiveness of the organization than unplanned innovations.
Disadvantages of planned innovations
The greatest disadvantage of planned innovations is, perhaps, the high costs that are involved in developing them. For instance, if an organization decides to use its employees in the development of the innovation, the organization will spend money in wages, allowances, and also lose a considerable amount of time doing consultations.
On the other hand, if an organization decides to hire a consultant, substantial amount of time will be spent while making consultations and the consultancy fee will also be high. Another disadvantage is the fact that planned innovations may not come out as planned, and thus the efforts in developing a particular innovation may go down the drain.
As evidenced in the discussion above, innovation may be planned or unplanned. The effect that a specific innovation has on an organization will depend on the nature of the organization and the need for a change in its operations. As much as the two forms of innovation are important, planned innovation is more advantageous than unplanned innovation because it is more focused and it tailors solutions to fit the needs of the organization. Planned innovation is thus more common than its unplanned counterpart.
Anderson, N. (1992). Organizational change and innovation: psychological perspectives. New Jersey. Wadsworth Publishing.
Guy, M. (2010). Planned and Unplanned Cultural change. Web.
Knowles, H. (2002). Organizational leadership of planned and unplanned change. Journal of Management, Vol 1, pp. 23 – 79.
McNamara, C. (2010). Organizational change and development. Retrieved from https://managementhelp.org/organizationalchange/index.htm