Breaking circular innovation

Updated: Jun 7

Circular innovation occurs in a company (as in any other organisation) when its management focuses on maximising operational efficiencies.



Discover here my On-line Programme on Breaking Circular innovation.

In creating efficient organisations executives set in place very rigid procedures hampering employees’ ability to think or even to suggest small variations from the norm.

Hierarchy matched with an intense level of control (CCTV in any corner) is the best way to preserve the current order of thing within a business.


Pushed by competitors (becoming more efficient) and investors (asking for higher quarterly returns) executives spend most of their working time pursuing higher efficiencies.

Is it possible to substitute employees with machines? Can we get the same level of production with less than half of the staff?

Speed is the essence of circular innovation - making more of the same with fewer resources. Not happy with the implementing of tighter rules, employees look for a way out, a different approach to drive production and even growth. As these suggestions don’t pass the management veto, new ideas develop at the edge of the organisation, inspired by change-makers and catalysts.


Despite an increasing level of control, it is only a matter of time before management can no longer preserve the current order of things.

As the rejection of the rule is spreading a new movement will start around it. Two things can occur:

  • Management considers the suggestion coming from the workforce, and the conversation begins (most of the time this is a negotiation).

  • Spin-off: change-makers and catalysts will start a new venture outside the current company.

In a way or another, the current rule is irreversibly under attack.


A team gathers around the new idea and organise a new order of things.


While we can see this dynamic happening in many parts of our lives, the hard part is answering the following questions:

1) How long will the circular innovation cycle last in a company? 2) Can/will an organisation embrace the new idea? 3) Is it worth creating a new organisation to implement a new idea?




See slides full screen here, or download a .pdf version.


More to come on this.

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