Corporate Innovation Is Both Emergent and Managed
July 18, 2009 2 Comments
Item #1, The Crowd Is Wise (When It’s Focused), New York Times:
Successful projects are typically hybrids of ideas flowing from a decentralized crowd and a hierarchy winnowing and making decisions.
Item #2, Innovation Management an Oxymoron, Paul Golding:
When I get requests for “sync up” and “co-ordination” and ” alignment” and all those other management “control” phrases, I know that the plot has wandered far from where it needs to be, far away from innovation as a force of creation, dragging it back towards the stronger force, tendency and habit of “management.” BIG MISTAKE.
In recent post here, What Is Innovation Management?, I wrote about common perceptions about the term “innovation management”. The second quote above is yet another example of that. Paul Golding expresses his suspicion for what is meant by innovation management. As he uses the term, I get it. It sounds like ham-handed management failing to understand ideas with intrinsic value, that go against the grain of what its parochial interests are. Taking honest, organic enthusiasm and killing it.
The first quote above, from a New York Times piece by Steve Lohr, represents the types of implementations I’m seeing. Companies want the ideas from their employees. They’re looking for the incremental ideas, and the ones that will disrupt an industry (theirs or a new one). But of course they apply their judgment as to which ideas ultimately get taken up.
In the NYT article, Linux is provided as an example. Around the world, developers submit their ideas for the next release of the operating system. It’s a great example of harnessing the enthusiasm of innovators. But guess what? Final cuts about what actually makes it into the release are based on what Linus Torvalds and a few others decide. Yup, top-down management of innovation. Why? Torvalds is the steward of Linux.
It’s no different inside companies. Managers are the stewards of their businesses. Executives are stewards of the enterprise. What is changing is the general awareness inside companies that innovation does need to be managed better than it historically has been. Innovation management isn’t a clumsy effort at turf protection. From that earlier blog post What Is Innovation Management?, this is what is emerging today:
- Innovation benefits from a range of perspectives
- Four of the most damaging words an employee can say: “Aww, forget about it”
- Create a culture of constant choices
- Looking at innovation as a discipline
- Focus employees’ innovation priorities
- Recognizing innovation as a funnel with valuable leaks
- Establishing a common platform for innovation is a revolutionary step forward
- Innovation must be more than purely emergent, disorganized and viral
Much of innovation management is the recognition that internal processes and companies’ execution focus has limited the pace of innovation. Companies are undertaking serious efforts to improve their employee-driven innovation.
Finally, I like this observation from the New York Times article from the University of California – Berkeley’s Henry Chesbrough:
To succeed, Mr. Chesbrough said, a company must have a culture open to outside ideas and a system for vetting and acting on them.
The first part of the sentence is in line with Paul Golding’s post about ideas emerging from throughout an organization, and building employee enthusiasm for innovation. The second part of the sentence – vetting and acting on them – is the stuff of modern innovation management.
The two parts of innovation really can work together.