Innovation, Management and bunker shots.

Metacool (who shares my view on the best book of the year) spoke recently at a Harvard Conference on Innovation. Wish I’d attended.

A prof involved the event posted this description.

One highly successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur will ask whether management is a net positive or negative in fostering creativity and invention. He will cite a growing body of evidence that suggests that bottom-up “discovery” has a superior record in comparison with “top down ‘deliberate’ strategies from headquarters.” He asks whether companies should call a halt to managing the innovation process, “intentionally abandoning control of their scarcest resources.”

He goes on….

All ask whether management, as it is currently practiced, has much to contribute to innovation and creativity. If the answer is little, one might ask what kinds of changes will be necessary to allow managers, particularly in larger organizations, to add value to the creative process? Or is it more productive to explore ways of providing incentives to the innovators of the world, largely outside large organizations, possibly by facilitating the market that mediates resources between investors and innovators? What do you think?

Figuring out innovation isn’t easy. I also wish it had been a bigger part of my business school studies in the the early 1990’s, but it wasn’t big in the curriculum back then.

Thanks to the innovationzen blog, I’ve just come across Utterback and Abernathy’s paper, A Dynamic Model of Product and Process innovation, published in 1975. (Better late than never)

I like how they see innovation as a  dynamic cycle, and expose different innovation forms.  It could have been written yesterday. Today, academic investigation into innovation is on the rise. I’ve blogged before on the ur-innovation guy, Schumpeter,  and  Von Hippel’s democratizing innovation stuff,  but there is lots more to dig into. 

Innovation is being taught and researched today more than ever before. This is goodness. Readers of this blog will know that I believe that some elements of innovation can be taught. Design led thinking,for instance, can help build an environment that allows innovative thinking to flourish. Indeed, I reckon integrating design school with business education is the best business school innovation in years.

James Governor is on top form at the moment. His  random acts of traction post  is strong on the power of serendipity, but I sense there is a lot more Gary Player in successful innovation than we realise.  The more I practice, the luckier I get, he once said when asked how he managed to hole out from bunkers so often.

(Photo- thanks Flickrstream gomattolson from the 2006 masters, sweet).

In the same vein, we shouldn’t forget  Edison’s homage to  sweaty stuff .  Fleming was lucky with the mold in the lab, but it was only because of his brilliant brain and experience that he was able to grasp the enormity of what he’d stumbled upon.

Archimedes thought long and hard, and tried many options before he had his bath moment. Without that, it would be been just an overly deep bath. After all, lots of people had bathed before him, and not figured density out.

(From Diva Bex)

There are several different forms of invention and innovation, blindly lumping them all together is not very useful. Actually, it is dumb. It is a bit like the weather forecaster saying  “there is weather all over the country”

From the awesome stream of azrainman.

Managing and encouraging, invention, co-innovation, disruptive innovation, product innovation, service innovation (Tip James and Vinnie), process innovation, continuous innovation and so on, require different approaches.

The term innovation has become so subjective that is it is beginning to loose meaning. Some innovation forms require careful management, others wilt if managed. It is all well and good us bloggers passing judgement on what is innovative in business and what is not – it makes great reading;  but the ultimate arbiter of innovation in business isn’t opinion or even Businessweek. It is the market.

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3 thoughts on “Innovation, Management and bunker shots.”

  1. Thomas… so important what you say. Also, lets not forget the all encompassing Institutional Innovation. Without it, companies don’t evolve.. and many don’t!!!

  2. great stuff thomas. strong incremental process led innovation is an important one to consider in the analysis. the real issue, as per steve’s comment, is that organisations don’t reward people for being prepared (in the sense of an edison or archimedes. the shackles of success are too strong

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