6 Core rigidities
It is one of the enduring features of innovation that the capabilities that can make an organisation innovative and successful at one time and in one set of conditions can also be responsible for its decline in another. Or, as one of the pioneers of the approach succinctly put it:
The perplexing paradox in managing core capabilities is that they are core rigidities. That is, a firm’s strengths are also – simultaneously – its weaknesses. The dimensions that distinguish a company competitively have grown up over time as an accumulation of activities and decisions that focus one kind of knowledge at the expense of others. Companies, like people, cannot be skilful at everything. Therefore, core capabilities both advantage and disadvantage a company … So long as conditions remain constant, managers experience the advantages of that interdependent system. In the face of a changing business environment, or when the system itself matures into mindless routine, managers find themselves fighting the very underpinnings of the firm’s success. One or more of the dimensions are pathological, are clogging up the flow of knowledge.
Again, the point has to be made that core rigidities are not simply a feature of commercial ‘companies’, they can and do afflict all types and sizes of organisation. Consequently, if we return to the dimensions of a capability noted in my earlier discussion of Leonard’s work, the following three sections are examples suggested by Leonard of why core rigidities develop that are actually applicable to any organisation.