Agility, the new “must-have” in Innovation Management

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The MAIM Class of 2014 shares their individual innovation opportunities in the lead up to their Degree Show, Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making. Here, Philippine Darblay, proposes different theories and practical examples of innovation through cross-disciplinary and multicultural collaborations in the food industry.


In this interconnected and increasingly complex world, crossing disciplines through collaboration can aid in expanding knowledge boundaries and creating new perspectives. There are chefs working today with designers, anthropologists and scientists, and from these collaborations new structures have emerged – experimental studios, and even entirely new professions like ‘Food Design’. Digging into this ‘blurred’ and exciting space, I sought to better understand what the phenomenon meant from a management perspective. More specifically, how can the crossing of disciplines be utilised as a source for disruptive innovations? And, what do these new collaborative practices mean in our current social context?


Moving through a series of research ‘spirals’ or ‘cycles’, to progressively narrow this ‘blurred’ space of cross-collaboration, my analysis and field research projects focused on food, as a creative industry which is currently experiencing tremendous change in terms of collaborative practices. By working alongside the Radical Dining Society, Bompas & Parr and Food Creation I was able to identify “agility” as the key and essential factor providing these enterprises with sustainability.


Agility happens at two simultaneous levels: internally, as a rejuvenation process (e.g. through prototyping and experimentation processes), and in response and relationship to the external environment (e.g. adaptation to a rapidly evolving context, links to external communities, questioning established rules…)


From a sociological perspective, these new collaborative practices also illustrate societal change, which is going towards a more ‘flexible’ structure. This flexibility is reflected in the rapid prototyping processes that are being adopted, in increased informalities, and in the more ‘collective’ approaches, where there is a higher interconnectedness between the project and the people, with a high responsibility of the individual over the group.


Improving individual abilities to innovate will train ‘active’ learning and thereby agility, and the agile enterprise or collaborative group will encourage the individuals search for knowledge and their ‘active reflection’ skills. The most innovative collaborative groups will expose their individual members to external communities, will promote knowledge share and provide the tools and space for learning. Paired with these factors and a risk-taking and experimental culture allows them to not only develop knowledge but also build upon it as a dynamic learning process. In the end, the ‘agile’ individual will take initiatives and work autonomously, making the group more agile as well.


To learn more about agility in creative collaborations and Philippine’s research, please join us at the MA Innovation Management upcoming Degree Show, Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making, from the 18-22 June.