Saturday, September 11, 2010


Social Innovation (SI) is all about simply strengthening community interaction models. It is a growth area impacting business strategies, innovation ideation practices, organizational designs, talent management, employee and customer engagement appraoches.

Working Definition

According to wikipedia, social innovation has developed several meanings. It can be used to refer to social processes of innovation, such as open source methods and techniques. Alternatively it refers to innovations which have a social purpose - like microcredit or distance learning. The concept can also be related to social entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship isn't always or even usually innovative, but it can be a means of innovation) and it also overlaps with innovation in public policy and governance. Social innovation can take place within government, within companies, or within the nonprofit sector (also known as the third sector), but is increasingly seen to happen most effectively in the space between the three sectors. Recent research has focused on the different types of platforms needed to facilitate such cross-sector collaborative social innovation.[1] Currently, social innovation is becoming increasingly important within the academic debate, also regarding its theoretical concepts.

Social innovation was discussed in the writings of figures such as Peter Drucker and Michael Young (founder of the Open University and dozens of other organizations) in the 1960s. It also appeared in the work of French writers in the 1970s, for example Pierre Rosanvallon, Jacques Fournier, and Jacques Attali. However, the themes and concepts in social innovation have existed long before that. Benjamin Franklin, for example, talked about social innovation in terms of small modifications within the social organisation of communities that could help to solve everyday problems. Many radical 19th century reformers like Robert Owen, founder of the cooperative movement, promoted innovation in the social field and all of the great sociologists including Karl Marx, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim focused much of their attention to broader processes of social change.

However, more detailed theories of social innovation only became prominent in the 20th century. Joseph Schumpeter, for example, addressed the process of innovation more directly with his theories of creative destruction and his definition of entrepreneurs as people who combined existing elements in new ways. In the 1980s and after, writers on technological change increasingly addressed the importance of social factors in affecting technology diffusion.

Toronto is Alive with Social Innovation Leadership

There are many leaders in Toronto alert to the transformation needs of this type of thinking integrated into our business models and cultural communication practices. Centers like the Social Innovation Center or MARS where small businesses leverage for collective jamming, and cross-pollination are effective new age real-estate models integrated with community foundations.

Helix is in the early stages of developing a Social Innovation practice that extends our deep expertise in business innovation, New Product/Service Commercialization, and Channel Innovation practices to integrate our deep know-how in collaboration. Having written over 8 books in these areas, and hundreds of articles, and client engagements - we want to increase this know-how into a more open social innovation cluster vision.


I often think what we really have happening is less about SOCIAL INNOVATION and is simply more about MOTIVATING HUMANS. Humans have always been social creatures, enjoying social rituals. The kitchen is the place always for great conversations, whether by a fire in the woods eating a meal close to a cave, or in a luxury 5 star restaurant, humans are social creatures and are more open and relaxed over a good meal, surrounded by diverse sensations.

Research in Sweden on the impact of smell being airated into offices that increase social happiness has found that apple pie is one leading scent that stimulates conversation connectedness.

What is clear is the impact of community and the value of social sustainability challenges how the majority of organizations are designed and led.

Developing social competencies into our university programs will also be a key success factor in developing more universal knowledge with our future business leaders. There is a great deal of work to be done.

Any ideas, do not hesitate to contact me directly at

1 comment:

Stu said...

I am a firm believer in creating a community within a company - it allows employees to work together more effectively and enforces a team spirit throughout.

Stewart Higgins
Intranet Expert
Intranet Software

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