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Abstract Corporate Social Innovation (CSI) - business innovation that aims at generating both profits and social value - gradually assumes the spotlight in innovation literature. As managers start to think of how they can embark on such promising trend, this paper looks at the experience of i-propeller, a young consultancy firm specialised in helping large and established firms to develop social business innovations. The paper investigates how opportunities for CSI can be most efficiently identified and approved for further development. Drawing from the experiences of i-propellers case study, we found that: (1) Working as a knowledge broker, i-propeller bridges a structural hole in a network spanning both business and social needs expertise and exploits this position to generate entrepreneurial ideas for CSI; (2) I-propeller generates socially innovative ideas by leveraging factors commonly present in CSI such as individuals intrinsic motivation to create a positive social impact; (3) Finally, understanding the difficulty managers have in getting socially innovative ideas accepted for further investment, i-propeller uses the following approach: It exploits additional dimensions of pay-back for CSI and leverages internal networks to go around the bureaucratic pathway ensuring that potential opportunities are screened directly to internal decision makers.

1. Introduction Over the past decade, the notion of corporate social innovation, that is, business innovation that aims at generating not only profits, but also significant social value, has been rapidly gaining fervour (See for instance special spotlight from HBR for September 2009). This trend notably parallels the widespread emergence of social enterprises who are effectively servicing unmet social needs using traditional business tools (Nicholls, 2006; Elkington & Harditon, 2007; Prahalad, 2004). The pioneering practices of Grameen Bank (Yunus, 2008) and the like are indeed giving traditional firms a flavour of the opportunity space for corporate social innovation (henceforth, referred to as CSI). Yet, for many firms, recognising which entrepreneurial opportunities for CSI lie within its own reach is proving to be far from a sinecure. This paper investigates how opportunities for CSI can be most efficiently identified and approved for further development. The practical experiences of i-propeller, a consultancy firm that designs social business innovations for established firms, are used as a significant case study. I-propeller is spearheading a new breed of innovation intermediaries (Chesbrough, 2006) dedicated to stimulate CSI. To the best of my knowledge, i-propeller is almost unique in the way it has built up (often intuitively) an apparatus specifically to help its clients recognise opportunities for CSI and also demonstrate their pay-back value. Immersion in the case study data about i-propeller has revealed three important insights. Firstly we observe that i-propeller bridges a structural hole (Burt, 1992) in a network spanning both business and social needs expertise. In this sense, i-propeller works as a knowledge broker (Verona et al, 2006) and exploits this position to generate entrepreneurial ideas for CSI. Secondly i-propeller generates socially innovative ideas by leveraging distinct factors present in CSI such as individuals intrinsic motivation to cause a positive social impact. Third and lastly, in understanding the difficulty agents have in getting socially innovative ideas accepted for further investment, i-propeller makes use of a particular approach. It exploits the additional dimensions of pay-back for CSI and makes use of storytelling and internal networks to ensure that potentially good opportunities are bought in by the many internal parties necessary for its effective deployment. This paper contributes to literature on recognition of opportunities for CSI by bringing a knowledge brokering and organisational memory perspectives. Similarly to product development firms (Hargadon & Sutton, 1997), i-propeller adopts an approach for generating ideas which is based on a Schumpeterian innovation perspective (Schumpeter, 1934). This is based on the premises that

knowledge is unequally dispersed in society and is never found in a concentrated or integral form so that we can make direct use of it (Hayek, 1945). Therefore, to solve a particular problem such as the challenges on CSI, the necessary knowledge should be scattered in what Hayek calls bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge in different individuals (Hayek, 1945:519). These bits should be creatively recombined so innovative solutions for CSI can arise (Schumpeter, 1934; Shalley & Gilson, 2004). Burt purports that individuals holding such knowledge tend to cluster in subgroups which know one another, have access to the same kinds of resources, are aware of the same opportunities and share the same perceptions (Burt, 1983:180). This implies that, because of its different nature, business knowledge and social needs knowledge (necessary for CSI solutions) are separated in two clusters of individuals. CSI solutions therefore, rely on the recombination of knowledge from both clusters which possess weaker or disconnected ties between each other (Granovetter, 1973). What i-propeller does through its innovation process is to select bits of this incomplete knowledge from both clusters and store it in its internal memory. When necessary, it then retrieves these bits of knowledge, adds externally specifically sourced knowledge and recombines them creatively for an innovative outcome through brainstorming sessions and analogical thinking (Hargadon & Sutton, 1997). In addition, we contribute to CSI literature in starting a discussion on the factors which seem to be more relevant for influencing idea generation processes for it. We adopt a cognitive approach for entrepreneurial opportunity recognition (EOR) which considers opportunities as a construction of pre-existing cognitive frameworks from entrepreneurs (Baron, 2006). In this sense, opportunities are rather created than simply identified (Hill & Birkinshaw, 2009) and individuals are therefore central for the process. Indeed research on creativity highlights the importance of a long list of influencing factors both at individual (such as personality traits) and contextual (such as job design and organisational climate) levels, with varied supporting evidence and different contextual research settings (Shalley & Gilson, 2004; Shalley et al, 2004; Amabile, 1999). This paper begins to understand which of these factors seem to be more relevant for more creative outcomes specifically for a CSI context. Through observing i-propeller and relating to the aforementioned literature the importance of intrinsic motivation (Amabile, 1999) and breadth of interests (Hill & Birkinshaw, 2009) are of worthy note and will be investigated. In concluding the initial stages of CSI we appreciate that good opportunities are often stuck in bottlenecks of scepticism, bureaucracy, poor management, lack of company support and other hurdles which can easily kill potentially good opportunities (Hansen & Birkinshaw, 2007; Kim & Maugborne, 2003). The need for changing perceptions for understanding different sources of pay-back (Elkington &

Hartigan, 2008; Kanter, 2007) for CSI appears to be a key point in need for analysis. We contribute for this literature in looking at different dimensions (such as return on social value creation) used intuitively by i-propeller and already present in the germane literature for strategic CSR (Porter & Kramer, 2003; Jones, 2000; Doorley & Garcia, 2007). For i-propeller, overcoming these hurdles and getting the buy in means to be able to successfully convey the tacit realisation of the socially entrepreneurial opportunities to individuals in the organisation-client (Nonaka, 2001) in such way that urges them to invest time and effort in developing it. For such, storytelling (Sustainability, 2008; Nonaka, 2007; Siggelkow, 2007) and the use of internal networks (Block & MacMillan, 1993) seems particularly relevant shortcuts. The remainder of the paper is organised as follows. While section two of this paper will describe the methodology employed for this research, section three will analyse how the above mentioned issues take place in i-propeller. Section four will briefly discuss implications of the findings and make recommendations for CSI practice. This paper finishes with a general conclusion, its limitations, and a few suggestions for further study. 2. Research Methodology 2.1 Research Setting and Design This case study analysis looks at i-propeller, a Belgian consultancy firm which operates from Brussels, supporting its European clients to develop strategies for their CSI activities. I-propeller is one of the very few innovation intermediaries (Chesbrough, 2006) working exclusively with CSI. It was chosen for this case study because of its particular experience in our focus of study, the initial stages of CSI processes. Since its establishment in 2007, I-propeller has worked on generating and developing ideas of very different natures in a variety of industries (such as energy, banking and telecom). This paper focuses on how i-propeller works on what it calls the Module 1 or the initial stages of its Social Innovation Process. The module 1 deals specifically with our object of study: It starts with the generation of ideas for CSI and ends with the approval of such idea (in a more developed stage) for business modelling 1.

See a detailed diagram of Module 1 in the appendix 1 and a detailed explanation in section 3.1.1 5

2.2 Data gathering Data was obtained in a variety of ways. The following methods were employed: Semi structured in-depth interviews and informal conversations Those were conducted with all founders and staff (five people, some of them at two different stages of the research process) recorded, transcribed and reported back to i-propeller as a written report and a presentation. I-propellers founders analysed the interpretation of the Module 1 process and gave detailed feedback. In addition, many informal conversations with all founders and other freelance researchers who work closely with the company took place. Materials about i-propeller Access to relevant confidential documents, internal presentations and some of their developed research has been granted for analysis. Workshop on the action lab A workshop has been conducted with the founders providing important insights on their organisational architecture and their strengths and weaknesses for module 1. The workshop also allowed for observations of the team working together in a creative manner providing insights of their teamwork. On-site observations I have also worked in i-propellers research action lab in Brussels in two different occasions, (for one week each) together with the founders, where I could observe them working in their own environment and assess part of the tacit dimension of ipropellers organisational culture, their work settings and some of their habits and routines. Other interviews and consultations In order to have different views on the same topic I have also interviewed people outside i-propeller including: a member of management of a relevant large and established consulting organisation, academics of relevant fields (such as innovation, idea generation and corporate entrepreneurship) among others. 2.3 Data Analysis This research undertakes a multi-disciplinary and iterative approach of constantly interviewing i-propellers staff and observing their methods and processes (systematically or intuitively developed) towards the development of socially entrepreneurial opportunities, comparing the observations with existing literature

on the fields of opportunity recognition, innovation and entrepreneurship. Other relevant topics such as creativity and social entrepreneurship were also used in the analysis. 3. Case study 3.1 The Propelling Machine I-propeller works closely to its clients to develop solutions for CSI. Typically, clients wishing to embark in CSI have a very limited understanding of what can be done with their existing resources and capabilities for such end. After interviews with the client and some research, i-propeller uses its internal knowledge base to start off its machinery, generating ideas for socially innovative businesses. The many ideas generated are then selected and presented to the client. If accepted, they receive further investment and go up the innovation process for business modelling, prototyping and deployment. In one case, a bank wishing to invest in environmental sustainability asked for ipropellers help. I-propellers staff combined their diverse backgrounds and their knowledge on other societal trends to create a service for the elderly which allows them to save money for the retirement of their grandchildren. The idea is simple: grandparents invest part of their savings in a special fund which remains in the bank for at least 50 years invested in green technology. The dual nature of benefits is clear: Banks benefit from having the investment for at least 50 years and the elderly feel that they contribute for the future of their grandchildren both financially and by protecting the environment that they will live in. 3.1.1 Module 1 I-propeller steps within module 1 follow the evolution of an idea to a configuration of an actual opportunity. Ideas for businesses constitute the initial stage of opportunities (Singh, 2000) and are generated in high quantity through many techniques (Bessant & Tidd, 2007). Once those ideas for businesses can realise an improved source of value creation (tangible or intangible) they constitute what Hill & Birkinshaw (2009) call an entrepreneurial idea. When the necessary resources for such idea have a feasible potential to be mobilised for its deployment it is then configured an entrepreneurial opportunity. Following the above reasoning, an entrepreneurial opportunity does not constitute a business plan or a prototype yet. The organisation must first want to develop it. Because of the many difficulties involved in getting the entrepreneurial opportunity

further up to business modelling and prototyping (and its sometimes high cost), ipropellers name for entrepreneurial opportunities is very adequate. It calls it a challenge. Appendix I shows a simplified version of i-propellers innovation process and a detailed illustration of module 1. 3.1.2 The networked machine I-propeller works as a knowledge broker and as such, it benefits from its position in the network to bridge structural holes (that is to connect gaps between two pools of otherwise disconnected clusters of knowledge) and allow for complementary knowledge combination towards innovative outcomes for CSI (Burt, 1992; Verona et al, 2006; Hargadon & Sutton, 1997). In this sense i-propellers architecture can be visually represented as in appendix II. Building and maintaining the machine: For successfully engaging in knowledge brokering, being in the right position of the network is not enough. Organisational routines that make use of its architectural characteristics are essential for its effectiveness (Hargadon & Sutton, 1997). In this sense i-propeller engages in several activities not only to keep and build the networks but also for constantly internalising knowledge coming from the aforementioned clusters. As knowledge is created by individuals (Nonaka, 2007), the routines and activities of i-propeller towards knowledge creation involve its founders and all other individuals who supply knowledge to it. In this sense, i-propellers networks are carefully leveraged from their founders original social capital. Composed by a variety of individuals and institutions, i-propellers direct network involves dozens of relationships with primary contacts granting access to other few thousand individuals (among social entrepreneurs, researchers, industry specialists, etc) through weak ties (Granovetter, 1973). I-propellers founders are often travelling to attend seminars and conferences, are attached to universities and attend to many brainstorming sessions in a variety of fields (from applied nanotechnology to social entrepreneurship and management). This is in line with Lemon & Sahota (2004) who pose that this internal organisational memory must be continuously updated through constant learning to avoid stagnation and path dependency. Under specific stimuli (usually the definition of a clients problem) these accumulated bits of knowledge in social issues and business are retrieved and reused

for different companies in different situations, industries and projects, recombined with new knowledge (acquired many times in an ad hoc basis) in a novel manner. As an illustration of a real case, an opportunity for investment in CSI developed by ipropeller for a client wishing to implement a green internet, had some elements from a previous green electricity not used idea. Appendix 3 shows a process model for how innovation happens in i-propeller based on Hargadon & Sutton (1997) process model for technology brokers. 3.2 People and context Module 1 is developed within i-propeller, mostly by its founders, staff and close knowledge suppliers (mostly researchers). Idea generation techniques (such as brainstorming sessions) are essentially the same as traditional innovative efforts. However, some influencing factors seem to be particularly important for CSI. 3.2.1 The I-propellers Despite the absence of appropriate psychological evaluations (beyond the scope of this paper) traits traditionally related to the recognition of opportunities and creativity such as openness to experience (George & Zhou, 2001) and a predisposition towards risk (Shalley & Gilson, 2004) seem to be present in most ipropellers founders. As the majority of these factors are common to innovations of any sort, this paper highlights two characteristics that caught my attention for being directly related to the particularities of CSI. Intrinsic Motivation is to be particularly noted. It could be felt from all interviews and informal conversations the willingness to make a positive difference to the worlds most pressing needs as they put. Amabile (1999) confirms the importance of this internal passion to resolve problems, in leading to creative outcomes. This factor becomes particular important for CSI as is constantly mentioned as one of the key drivers for social entrepreneurs (Kanter, 2007; Bessand & Tidd, 2007; Light, 2008; Elkington & Hartigan, 2007; Sustainability, 2008). Social entrepreneurs bear similar characteristics to transformational leaders by possessing the capabilities of engaging others in important changes towards innovation acceptance (such as mindset shift or paradigm breaking idea) through their values and vision (Schippers et al., 2008). In this study, this factor seemed to play a crucial role in getting ideas accepted for further development. Education and breadth of interests - I-propellers are all educated to higher education in internationally leading universities and have very diverse career paths

(including a bioengineer with a PhD in economics and a psychologist who has worked for years in finance and accounting, for instance). This indicates a good breadth of knowledge base which is positively associated with a good volume of ideas (Hill & Birkinshaw, 2009) as long as a good depth of relevant knowledge which is positively associated with the creation of more novel ideas (Hill & Birkinshaw, 2009). The importance of such factors to innovative ideas for CSI is in part because of the increased range of knowledge that becomes accessible (McLeod & Lobel, 1992). In this sense, i-propellers specific background on social issues and businesses make the nature of their education an important component for their mission on CSI. Work Context In addition to the importance of individuals characteristics, the context within which such individuals work also influences their creative outcomes (Hill & Birkinshaw, 2009; Shalley & Gilson, 2004). As an example, intrinsic motivation (mentioned above as a key factor) is sensibly influenced by work context (Amabile, 1999). Many factors which are found to favour creative outcomes can be identified in ipropeller such as a strong sense of self-declared team work and the presence of a shared mental model (Amabile, 1999; Shalley & Gilson, 2004; Shalley et al, 2004). In addition, it is worth noting that i-propellers research lab installations were designed to stimulate creative thinking. The work setting provides the stage for a flexible and supportive team to work creatively. Because of the small size of team, work roles boundaries are blurred and the flat organisational structure helps in not creating problems when researchers must engage in sales pitch, for example. This also makes the overall work at i-propeller complex enough to be challenging for all. Without a more in depth observation of i-propellers culture, it becomes difficult to identify factors specifically related to CSI that could affect individuals differently than those from traditional firms. However, one could suppose that in addition to all contextual conductive factors mentioned above, the simple fact of working for a firm which strives for social value, therefore creating an alignment between organisation and individuals values, boosts the team morale and intrinsic motivation which are also conductive to creative outcomes (Amabile, 1999). But such proposition must be made carefully as relations of causation and the consequences of added influencing factors in creative performance would demand a more in depth and specific analysis for contextual factors affecting creativity in a CSI environment.


3.3 Getting the buy in A key point for i-propellers innovative process takes place when one or more socially entrepreneurial opportunities are realised. As one of the founders remarked all the efforts to generate ideas and transform those ideas into viable opportunities are in vain if these opportunities do not get the buy in of the organisation to move forward to business modelling and subsequent piloting and deployment. In other words, to get the buy in is a simple matter of (1) how to explain the (2) reasons for investing in the innovation such that the organisation understands the opportunity benefits, feels motivated about it, helps in convincing others inside the organisation and mobilise their own resources to achieve it (Kim & Maugborne, 2003). Once the opportunity is realised by the client organisation, then it becomes an issue of managerial willingness to invest in it or not (Singh, 2000). 3.3.1. The Reasons: Strategic fit, pay-back and feasibility Johan Moyersoen, i-propellers general manager, explains that when selecting socially entrepreneurial ideas for presenting to their clients, i-propeller looks at a few important factors. These factors are similar to Block & MacMillans (1993) prerequisites for an idea to become a reason for investment. Building on both approaches, ideas must: (1) strategically fit the organisations goals, missions and values; and its existing portfolio of services (2) there must be a clear potential payback which generates more value (both economic and social) than it costs; and (3) It must be feasible (in terms of both economic resources and capabilities) for the organisation to deploy it. Strategic fit Additionally to building on the organisations existing values as Moyersoen points out, strategic fit entails to abide to a few other factors. These include understanding how long the factors which constitute the opportunity will be available, characterising the size and nature of the market (and its potential to growth) and what is the competitive advantage offered by the organisation, amongst other factors (Block & MacMillan, 1993). It is beyond the scope of this paper to analyse specific strategic factors for fit, but authors such as Porter & Kramer (2003) have introduced a pioneering framework for managers to strategically invest and benefit from their social value creation.


Pay-back I-propellers commercial manager, Toon Diegenant, highlights the importance that his clients naturally give to cash payback. Give me an idea that generates more money than it costs me and you have my approval is the common tone of the conversation. However, as mentioned before, managers willing to invest in CSI must change their mindset to understand that the pay-back for such innovations has additional dimensions than simply cash. Andrew and Sirkin (2006) already point out that for many new ventures in traditional business, the actual pay-back will not come only in the direct and tangible form of cash but also through a series of intangible benefits (increased knowledge, brand strengthening, organisational reputation and networks enhancement). In the case of CSI, social value configures the additional dimension of pay-back which, apart from strengthening aforementioned values, such as reputation (Jones et al, 2000; Doorley & Garcia, 2007; Austin et al, 2006) can be translated into a few extra factors identified in the table below. When well strategically placed, CSI may indeed directly influence future cash revenues by open ways to entering new markets (Porter & Kramer, 2003; Kanter, 1999; Prahalad, 2006), enhancing internal team morale because of the doing-good feeling also affecting intrinsic motivation at work (see examples in Bornstein, 2007). In addition, Jones et al, (2000) argue that investing in socially responsible activities creates a reservoir of goodwill which shields organisations against situations of crises. Managers must then be attentive for these dimensions of pay-back and craft their CSI proposals around those benefits.

Table 1 Pay-back value configuration in CSI


Feasibility Finally, feasibility means to have enough resources and competencies for implementing the innovation. If enough resources can be obtained through lines of credit and normal cash reserves, similarly capabilities can be built or acquired through partnerships, for instance (Block & MacMillan, 1993; Kanter, 1999). 3.3.2. The How: Directly addressing the hurdles Socially entrepreneurial opportunities that can successfully fulfil the above reasons for investment have yet a row of other obstacles before they can be approved (Hansen & Birkinshaw, 2007). At i-propeller, we focused our attention on the cognitive and the political hurdles (Kim & Maugborne, 2003) because they seem to be particularly problematic for CSI. Overcoming such obstacles has demanded ipropeller to develop a set of capabilities that are necessary for any agent willing to invest in CSI. They comprise: Making yourself understood, the cognitive hurdle Johan Moyersoen stresses the importance of making the business case for each socially entrepreneurial opportunity presented, which entails to find the best way to present both the strategic alignment and the pay-back, with yet very limited information and research on the opportunity itself. For such, communication skills are a key resource for getting over the cognitive hurdle and convey the message (Hansen & Birkinshaw, 2007). I-propellers founders stress the importance of understanding and speaking the language of the company when pitching the idea for the same reasons. According to them, the capacity of framing the opportunity so the desired benefits can be obvious for the group or person to whom the idea is pitched is of key importance for success. Similarly to the idea generation process, presenters must share a mental model with the client so knowledge can be transferred (Nonaka, 2001) and the opportunity can be realised by them. For such, ipropeller makes use of storytelling, a considered powerful tool for conveying socially entrepreneurial ideas (Sustainability, 2008; Siggelkow, 2007). This is done through the use of examples of successful social entrepreneurs, similar ventures and projects which act as an inspiration for what could be a result of CSI efforts. In addition, ipropeller strives for presenting simplicity (of concept) and clarity on the idea so key aspects can be easily retained by busy managers. Johan Moyersoen also stresses that building on the clients already existing agenda for socially related activities (such as CSR or sustainability efforts) may help in the buy in process because of the already existing internal cultural acceptance for such projects and values. But maintaining such approach for longer could be harmful for strategic development if the existing

agenda is poor in strategic alignment and effectiveness, provoking inertia or path dependency. Internally diffusing Socially Entrepreneurial Ideas (SEOs) As Toon Diegenant, commercial manager at i-propeller asserts, in most companies there is no Mr strategy. So, instead of using the normal bureaucratic paths which only slow down the process, we always try to reach out for people that can understand the nature of our ideas and help us to diffuse them in the organisation. Johan Moyersoen confirms that Although reluctant in directly selling the idea, by simply talking to other departments or simply arranging meetings for us, these internal contacts are important for i-propeller to be heard by those who actually have the power to decide. Being an outsider i-propeller must first understand the internal pathways to the decision makers, usually at the managerial top. According to their experience, it seems to be equally important to get middle management also on board because it is at their level that innovations are actually developed and things get done. Andrew & Sirkin (2006) call those key individuals the innovation facilitators or those who support and advocate for the idea inside the company. Mr Diegenant explains that their nature is varied and their reasons for being an innovation facilitator equally vary. From really caring about the social cause to simply wanting to gain internal screening from the possible innovation success, he explains that it is important to understand their reasons for support and seek to satisfy their needs to get support too. Generally, when a group of innovation facilitators is formed, the possibilities for the idea to be spread in the internal network of the company increase and so do the chances for successful implementation (Sustainability, 2008; Andrew & Sirkin, 2006; Kim & Mauborgne, 2003). The importance of such synergy has also to do with the fact that the same departments must join efforts for the actual implementation of the product or service when it becomes part of the organisation core business (Andrew & Sirkin, 2006). 4. Discussion and recommendations for practice The experience of i-propeller as a knowledge broker helps us to understand the main challenges that agents who wish to propose socially entrepreneurial ideas face. It also points to some interesting insights of how those challenges may be tackled. Drawing from the case study and from the literature presented throughout the above chapters a few recommendations can be derived for managers and agents

willing to embark on CSI either doing it internally or by calling an innovation intermediary such as i-propeller. 4.1 Doing it yourself Designing an idea-maker machine for social business innovations As seen from i-propeller experience, access to different knowledge and organisational learning is of key importance for increasing innovation possibilities. Open innovation scholars have been preaching the benefits of leveraging internal as well as internal networks of knowledge in the past decade (Chesbrough, 2003; Bessand & Tidd, 2007), and it is no different for CSI. Managers investing in CSI should become aware of their position in the network of knowledge and attempt to strategically bridge structural holes of knowledge (Burt, 1992) by increasing the contact of the companys overall business and industry knowledge with relevant knowledge from the social needs which it wishes to address. Such contact can be done in a variety of ways. Drawing from the case study and related literature recommendations comprise: (1) Increase the organisations knowledge base by strategically developing internal and external knowledge networks. This can be attained by partnering with socially related organisations (such as NGOs, social enterprises or KBs such as i-propeller) participating in (or creating) events which provide contact between the two clusters of knowledge, investing in research on social trends relevant to the firm and constantly scanning for new trends and updates in CSI practice. (2) Carefully craft organisational routines for knowledge storage, retrieval and sharing. This can be done through the creation of internal reports, fostering cross-departmental collaborations in idea generation, regular meetings and frequent internal brainstorms (Hargadon & Sutton, 1997). Generating your own opportunities Managers have little influence in changing their staffs creative skills or traces on their personality that are normally said to be related to creative outcomes (Amabile, 1999). However, as seen above, much can be done in positively influencing the social and contextual factors within which such individuals work towards favouring creative outcomes (Amabile, 1999; Shalley & Gilson, 2004; Shalley et al, 2004).


Recommendations for managers wishing to foster internal creativity towards generating socially entrepreneurial ideas include: (1) Feed intrinsic motivation. As one of the key factors for social entrepreneurs (or indeed corporate social entrepreneurs) managers should be attentive to their staff and be able to understand and give appropriate support to their valuable ideas, motivations and goals, guiding them towards firms strategy (Gilbon & Birkinshaw, 2004). (2) When hiring new staff or training the existing ones, managers must consider choosing to balance depth of knowledge with breadth of interest by hiring individuals who understand (or are interested on) not only the core business activities but also related societal trends (Hill & Birkinshaw, 2009; Shalley & Gilson, 2004). Getting the buy in of your own ideas I-propeller experience demonstrates that even after conceiving a socially entrepreneurial opportunity, managers still have a series of obstacles to overcome before key necessary parties within the organisation decide to collaborate for its deployment. For overcoming those for CSI efforts, managers should: (1) Make sure that the presented ideas (1) strategically fit the organisation (2) generate enough social and economic value and (3) are feasible to the organisation (Block & MacMillan, 2003; Singh, 2000); (2) Avoid the standard bureaucratic pathways and make use of internal networks to reach decision makers in the top management and crucial departments for the deployment of the innovation; (3) When conveying the idea for others within the organisation managers must be able to express the multiple nature of corporate social innovation payback; (4) Make appropriate use of storytelling (Sustainability, 2008; Siggelkow, 2007; Nonaka, 2007; Nonaka, 2001) to communicate mindset-shifting ideas; (5) Construct strong business cases for the idea so clear benefit from innovations is realised without the need for persuasion (Sustainability, 2008). 4.2 Using an intermediary knowledge broker Innovation intermediaries working with CSI, like i-propeller, are still rare. However, the growing importance of the societal trends aforementioned should push for the creation of more such organisations. There are three major advantages of using these organisations:

(1) To have access to a broader wealth of knowledge, of which the organisation is largely disconnected thus increasing idea generation capacity (Singh, 2000; Arenius & De Clercq, 2005); (2) To benefit from applying accumulated experience from different industries, in deploying socially innovative services with solutions tailored for the specific hurdles of CSI (such as internal mindset shift, changing metrics for evaluating the payback and etc); (3) Test CSI without having to commit to redesigning the internal architecture to sustain such searches (Chesbrough, 2006). Innovation intermediaries can provide such architecture with a minor interference in internal structures. In spite of these advantages, managers must be mindful when choosing intermediaries. As we learned from i-propellers case study, for CSI to be effective through knowledge brokers (KBs), a close relationship KB-client organisation seems crucial. As outsiders, KBs need access to relevant internal knowledge and managers must be able to express their problems with innovation, which is many times tacit and thus difficult to access, thus making it a long process. Also managers must be able to manage the trades-off of conveying sensitive internal knowledge so KBs can better help (Chesbrough, 2006). 5. Conclusion Just as CSI gradually becomes a new paradigm for business innovation (Kanter, 1999) this paper makes use of a variety of literature in entrepreneurship, innovation, idea generation and opportunity recognition to flesh out the initial stages of CSI development at i-propeller, a social business innovation consultancy firm, in order to understand what particular obstacles organisations may face whilst endeavouring to invest in corporate social innovation. Using an iterative model of in-depth interviews, practical observation and theoretical research this paper has been built around three key issues at the initial stages of CSI development: I-propellers organisational architecture, its processes for idea generation and its experience in getting ideas accepted for further development. In understanding i-propellers fluid functioning we conclude that i-propeller has intuitively developed an organisational architecture that bridges the two almost disconnected worlds of knowledge in business and the social needs. I-propeller leverages its external networks of knowledge in both business and social needs to build its internal knowledge base or its internal organisational memory. When appropriately stimulated by a CSI challenge, i-propeller activates this architecture and uses these networks as an extension of its own memory. Thus, by carefully

managing inflows and outflows of knowledge, and retrieving existing knowledge from its own organisational memory, it recombines complementary bits of it creating innovative solutions for both economic and social value. For such machine to work propelling new business ideas, specific components must be in place and appropriate supportive contextual conditions must be fulfilled. These components, individuals, are driven by intrinsic motivation (Sustainability, 2008; Bornstein, 2007) and, in turn, propel the functioning of such machine which is fuelled by knowledge (be it deep and specific or broad and diverse Hill & Birkinshaw, 2009). In addition, it has been found that the context within which these individuals work have an important influence in the final creative outcome for such idea generation process (Shalley & Gilson, 2004). When attempting to convey new ideas for social innovation, and get the buy in from other individuals another knowledge exercise is put to proof and the same agents must now attempt to share mental models with decision makers to transfer tacit visualisations of opportunities (Nonaka, 2001) for the organisation. In order to do so, we have identified here that the use of internal networks and storytelling allied to strong business cases are powerful tools to gain the attention of decision makers and get the buy in for the next steps of such innovations Limitations Albeit attempting to generate recommendations for large and established businesses, i-propeller is an external innovation intermediary and there are important issues that must be taken into account for internal processes of CSI. For example, the role of the leadership in driving innovation within the organisation plays a major role in driving social entrepreneurship (Bessand & Tidd, 2007; Light, 2008; Nicola et al, 2008; Rangan et al, 2007) and this research identifies the intrinsic motivation factor as one of the leaders characteristics. However as such leaders are internal to i-propellers clients, it was difficult to have access to them during the research. Another limiting point is the fact that this paper has relied on i-propellers experiences to derive key important hurdles and solutions for CSI. These experiences are however limited and cannot be taken as representative from all CSI issues. There should be other important relevant factors which have not arisen from i-propellers experience and perhaps some factors raised in this paper may not be as relevant to other CSI contexts.


Further research As a still embryonic field, CSI demands much further study and this paper aims at having indicated important new avenues for research. Researchers could examine how other factors in the three areas here studied will influence performance in social business innovation. A few studies have started the discussion on new forms of business models and organisational architecture for CSI outcomes (See for instance Alter, 2006) and a few other studies have looked at the importance of intrinsic motivation and of the social entrepreneur as key for driving CSI (Sustainability, 2008; Nicola et al, 2008; Bessand & Tidd, 2007). However CSI could benefit from more research on the performance of creative teams in contexts particularly relevant to CSI so its more important influencing factors can be identified. Also the relationship between depth and breadth of knowledge appointed already by Hill & Birkinshaw (2009) could be further examined so scholars could identify the best configurations of knowledge (or what proportion of social needs knowledge against what proportion of business knowledge) organisations should aim at building for combination. Finally more research would be desirable on how agents pro-CSI can explore the different dimensions of CSI pay-back configured in this paper, as getting the internal buy in is such a key point for getting ideas from the paper to application. General contributions for literature on CSI This paper has not attempted to prescribe formulas for recognising opportunities in CSI or to get CSI projects accepted by organisations. As mentioned before, it has rather attempted to identify a few important issues that could be observed through the experience of i-propeller which are particular to CSI such as the importance of intrinsic motivation or the possibilities that a networked model for knowledge management can bring to CSI. It has also attempted to initiate important discussions on why such factors are important and how to bring in existing literature in knowledge management, creativity and entrepreneurship to tackle such hurdles that could stifle innovation and discourage managers to invest in CSI.


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