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Methods applied: ISMA 360®

At a time when innovation is crucial, what do we really know about the right ways to do innovation? 

It is customary to hear that those who are able to innovate, to create, to undertake have a gift. Wrong! It can be learned.

An affirmation that Dominique Vian is able to justify, after more than ten years spent identifying the main questions facing innovators. Many people encounter obstacles and become discouraged. By exchanging with entrepreneurs and those who accompany them, he has discovered that there is a typical type of questioning leading to innovation.

The modeling of this pattern of questioning has helped to shed light on the way of thinking of many innovative entrepreneurs, which help them navigate the complex labyrinth of the innovation process.

Expert innovators often follow this process partially, some with more or less skill. The novices almost ignore it. Thanks to all these meetings with entrepreneurs, Dominique Vian realised that it was possible to model the necessary information, whatever the nature of the invention at its origin. "I quickly realised that this method was filling the gaps left by usual teaching about entrepreneurship, for example, strategy manuals have methods and tools but little to address the specific questions of innovators. Most authors focus on the goal to achieve, i.e innovation, but few describe the iterative process that leads to this innovation. Geared towards the end result, in my opinion, they forget the path that makes it possible to get there."

What is ISMA360®?

ISMA360® is a method for guiding innovative people to design a strategy without having to make a hypothesis about the future, but by analysing the facts and their direct consequences.

     It is defined as:
  • A standard questioning which makes it possible to transform an invention into a market
  • A method that allows a novice to think like an expert
  • An approach that mobilises individual and collective cognitive "resources".

Theoretical underpinnings of the ISMA360® method

The method is based on two complementary theoretical frameworks for mapping and navigating complex and uncertain environments.

Mapping complex environments becomes possible because any complex system takes the form of a hierarchy of quasi-decomposable subsets. Indeed, an important concept for designing an innovation is that of quasi-decomposability (QD), a term initially proposed by Simon (Simon 1969, Simon and Ando 1961). QD refers to the ability of a complex system to be described by means of a relatively small number of subsets. It is by identifying these subsets that the entrepreneur is able to concentrate on one and then the other of these subsets in order to carry out its innovation process. The identification of the subsets allows the entrepreneur to avoid amalgamating modules that would interact weakly.

Navigating complex environments makes it difficult to predict the future. Moreover, any hypothesis on a final result to be achieved proves unrealistic. While it is not possible to answer the question "what do I have to do to reach this future?" The two questions relevant to an iterative progress become:" What do I know? "And" what can I do that is a direct consequence of what I know? ". In order to attempt a metaphor, this is a sort of "complex all-terrain" version of questioning the future that is particularly effective when it is impossible to set a final goal. This is the case when innovation makes no reference to a past, when it is disruptive. This logic of reasoning: available means and related possible effects is called the effectual logic (Sarasvathy 2001).


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