Since the end of last year, four different students of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam have started a research on collaboration within digitalization. De Digitale Rivier, an innovation program of Rijkswaterstaat, is used as a specific case for their research. In a two-part interview they explain their findings until now. The first part you can find here. In this final part they explain what interesting findings they have found until now and what the value is of the program.
What interesting findings have you collected until now?
The most interesting finding is that the structure of Digitale Rivier is analogical to the one known from social innovations. That means existing concepts of embedding social innovations into institutional context are at least partially applicable to the case of Digitale Rivier and are a good starting point for further research. Secondly, I’ve discovered that “interactive spaces” – which are spaces that facilitate agents’ encounters – are very important in increasing the capacity to identify and make use of opportunities. This information will be a very important part of my research.
The importance of operating under a digital innovation ecosystem is increasing. First, pervasive digitization has created innovation to consist of multiple layers (i.e., devices, networks, services, and contents) with blurred boundaries that are often structured in a ‘layered modular architecture’, thereby extending the modular architecture of physical products. Second, the boundaries of an organization are becoming increasingly more fluid, meaning businesses must be prepared to exploit fluidity as a strategic asset for competitive advantage. Third, the blurring and fluidity of boundaries call for socio-cognitive sensemaking to understand how digital technologies interact with innovation agents across multiple ecosystems. Fourth, open innovation is extending an organizations’ digital innovations beyond its organizational boundaries to multiple stakeholders. Following these rising trends, a DIE framework is needed to depict how firms will continue to provide innovation services across multiple ecosystems in blurred, fluid and multiple stakeholder environments.
What value lessons on the application of digitalization have you learned for yourself until now?
I’ve understood that digital innovations don’t happen overnight. They require constant experiments that can be either scaled or stalled in the end. They need good communication among people and common interests achieved via constructive negotiations. Moreover, they also cannot be achieved within the hermetic group of people as innovation needs diversity. I’ve truly started to believe that social innovations are an awesome way to facilitate innovation basically in every context.
Digital technology and joint innovation activities are playing an essential role in transforming organizations and the manner in which they compete in the future. Together these organizations can create and capture value by creating new products and/or services and they do so by using digital platforms such as the Digitale Rivier. What I find particularly valuable is that these ecosystems can therefore be used to generate innovative solutions that benefit the economy, society and the environment, all by working together.
It has shown me how the daily face to face tasks easily can be replaced by online events.
In a world that is constantly being driven by exponential technological process traditional theories that explain how to create competitive advantage though resources or developing dynamic capabilities are becoming outdated if they do not adopt a multi-ecosystems membership perspective. That is, recognize that innovation is creating blurred and fluid boundaries as resources are now accessible to multiple actors and workers require interrelated capabilities that are based on multiple ecosystems to build sustained competitive advantage.
From your perspective: how can the way of working of De Digitale Rivier have value for users or developers?
The maritime industry is still very traditional and focused on big enterprise corporations. And even though it is a very valuable market, it’s incredibly difficult to make a change within it. However, everything becomes more and more connected to technology nowadays. That helps us to understand the data on processes more, and leverage it in order to become both even more profitable and environmentally friendly. In my opinion, to digitize means to connect things, make them accessible to smaller startups that can build disrupting ventures and make a change.
Bringing organizations and developers together and working on experiments together can be a great example. Using the expertise of large organizations but also giving small developers or start-ups a podium is something I really value.
De Digitale Rivier must adopt a multi-ecosystem digital innovation ecosystem perspective to come up with digital innovations. This means the organization must recognize that users and developers do not belong to just one domain of expertise but actually are intertwined in a complex web of interrelated relationships that span across multiple areas of expertise. As such, facilitating membership across multiple ecosystems will allow users to benefit from complex yet simple innovations that may solve world challenges and allows developers to exploit their full potential as they become fully immersed in a world that offers endless combinations of expertise to come up with digital innovations.
Do you have any suggestions for improvement for our program?
I don’t have suggestions for improvements for this moment, I’m still observing and analyzing both the theory and practical case of Digitale Rivier. My main goal of the research is however to provide the practical framework of organizing meso level to enhance collaboration between users and partners. Thus, hopefully I’ll have meaningful suggestions very soon.
Be a pioneer in the digital innovation ecosystem space. Encourage experiments to adopt an business ecosystem perspective to extract profits from new innovation. Allow partners to come together on an ecosystem’s platform with users, developers and complementors. Invite universities, corporations, and government agencies to create a knowledge ecosystem. It is only by being active in multiple ecosystems that firms will be able to sustain competitive advantage in environments of rapid technological change.