Applied Information Management

Communication Tactics that Describe Innovation Advocacy Leadership as a Way to Inform Organizational Strategic Planning by Leveraging Networks and Building Consensus

In Brief: Strategic planning must be informed by information shared among leaders across the organization, including the chief executive officer, business unit managers, and first-level managers. Each level of management between operational managers and top management plays a specific role in informing the strategic processes, but middle managers are the information hub responsible to filter, organize, and share information through a series of social interactions in different contexts.

Innovation advocates must provide a cognitive bridge to the new ideas they propose.

Due to favorable positions within the organization and personal initiative, innovation advocates rise as self-appointed leaders who provide the interface between the early divergent processes of an innovation and subsequent convergent processes prescribed for strategic adoption. To fulfill this role they need to understand how far the business unit manager's perception of strategy deviates from upper management. With this understanding the innovation advocate can frame the innovation to address the executive preferences for strategic relatedness, while maintaining business unit level appeal.

Figure 1 provides a set of six tactics that innovation advocates can use to move innovation through the organization to the formal strategic decision-making processes. Tactics are designed to aid innovation advocates as they convey an understanding of the dominant strategic perceptions within the organization and provide a cognitive and procedural bridge to the new ideas they propose.

Communication Tactic Practical Procedures
1. Build Social Capital
  • Utilize respect as the primary source of influence.
  • Be strong without being directive, pragmatic over controlling.
2. Define the Innovation Context
  • Maintain a fluid understanding of context through levels of the organization.
  • Aggregate ideas, blend strategies, and increase appeal in order to gain commitment from stakeholders.
3. Channel Opportunities
  • Define the issues that face the organization, rather than propose the innovation solution.
  • Disseminate information through temporary coalitions based on differing preferences and perceptions of power in order to garner growing support and build consensus among participants.
4. Develop Dynamic Networks
  • Build dynamic networks through altering connections and changing patterns of interaction.
  • Cultivate networks that reach across organizational units or beyond the perimeter of the organization as a way to increase potential support.
5. Leverage Network Audiences
  • Create a chain reaction within dynamic networks by clearly articulating the innovation message.
  • Leverage networks based on the position and roles of the participants, with upward networks providing resources and protection and downward networks providing information and validation of the innovation.
6. Frame Perceptions and Focus Attention
  • Build the context for transition by defining loose processes that encourage valued information sharing and coalition building.
  • Redefine processes to provide tighter controls as the initiative progresses, leading to organizational adoption and standardized processes.
  • Follow an innovation to adoption and implementation.

Figure 1—Communication Tactics and Practical Procedures


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AIM alumna Connie Atchley

Research Paper Author: Connie Atchley, Oregon State University—2010 AIM Graduate

Abstract: This study presents six communication tactics that describe innovation advocacy leadership. It examines differences in communication abilities and behaviors represented by divergent processes, which develop new directions necessary to support innovative ideas, and convergent processes which represent the dominant organizational view necessary to support formal strategic planning (Pappas, 2004). Tactics provide advocates with a procedural bridge to the new ideas they propose and include defining innovation context, developing dynamic networks, channeling opportunities, and framing perceptions.

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