New research from the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business finds that innovation is much more than an idea. Innovation is a complex process and leaders shouldn’t get stuck in the idea phase, according to a study from Associate Professor Melissa Archpru Akaka.

Her article, “How Does Innovation Emerge in a Service Ecosystem?” was recently published in Journal of Service Research. The study followed the development of the Hub-of-All-Things (HAT) platform, a cloud-based personal data service that enables customers to collect, contextualize, visualize and trade their personal data privately and securely. The HAT project started in June 2013 as a United Kingdom government-funded research project. The aim of the HAT project is to empower customers to make better use of their personal data.

Akaka’s research followed the innovation of the HAT researchers working across six UK universities. Since its first public release in January 2017, the platform has been adopted by more than 1,300 customers and is currently in preparation for wider public release in 2018.

What Akaka found is that innovation as a systemic process includes three phases: idea, institutional reconciliation and solution.

Melissa Akaka

“Rather than focusing solely on research and development during the idea phase, managers should also focus on revising norms, rules and beliefs that support new ideas,” Akaka says. “It is important for managers to be actively involved in their communities and professional networks, so that their ideas can be planted throughout a service ecosystem. It is not always immediately clear which institutions, or social norms, can provide fertile soil for an idea to emerge as a solution.”

The study also found that leaders should recognize that innovation is often recursive and iterative. They should be patient and comfortable moving back and forth from the idea phase to the institutional reconciliation and solution phase and back again.

“Conscientious managers should facilitate feedback loops that promote learning and knowledge sharing,” she says. “Garnering widespread support from other actors in the service ecosystem is key to refining ideas into solutions.”

Innovation is thus a journey rather than a destination. It remains the responsibility of managers to understand the institutional environment and lead the journey from idea to solution to ensure innovation.

For the full study, visit:

About the author:
Melissa Archpru Akaka is an associate professor in the Marketing Department at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. She is the Elizabeth and Ali Machado Faculty Fellow, and teaches topics such as marketing research, introduction to marketing, customer experience design and collaborative innovation.