Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On Gary Hamel's "The Future of Management" part 3 - Making innovation everyone's job

"Making innovation everyone's job" is a section heading in "The Future of Management." The question is why isn't this done? Hamel (and his co-writer Bill Breen; I've been negligent in not crediting him earlier) give three reasons:

Creative Apartheid - the belief that only special people can be creative, so most people are not allowed to innovate.

The Drag of Old Mental Models - a.k.a. the trap of past success. The authors bring up Dell, a perfect example. Their direct-selling model had been so successful for so long, the company was very slow to catch onto the shift of PCs as a business product to a consumer product--making a retail sales model advantageous. And the move from desktops to laptops, which allowed less customization--a Dell specialty.

No Slack - this is one of the most interesting observations in the book. By increasing efficiency and making sure directly-measurable output was optimized, executives and their consultant enablers squeezed out time for people (including themselves) to be innovative. Innovation requires clear thinking and reflection, and who can do that when they have to close eight trouble tickets this hour, or bill forty-five hours this week, or do twenty performance reviews this month?

Writes Hamel:

Every day brings a barrage of emails, voice mails, and back-to-back meetings [sound familiar?]. In this world, where the need to be "responsive" fragments human attention into a thousand tiny shards, there is no "thinking time." And therein lies the problem. However creative your colleagues may be, if they don't have the right to occasionally abandon their posts and work on something that's not mission critical, most of their creativity will remain dormant. (p.55)

Other posts in this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5

Note: you can find excerpts of the book here.

(Photo by fireball45 via stock.xchng)


Ms.Huebner said...

Dear John Caddell,
My name is Caroline Huebner and I am a graduate student in the Educational Technology program at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.
I came across your blog during my search about innovative companies for a Human Performance Technology assignment. My assignment is to write a reference article about innovation as a performance intervention. I found your comment about collaborative innovation to be very interesting, most research suggest that this is the directions we are moving in.

I was wondering if you could help me answer a few other questions regarding “INNOVATION”?

In your opinion, what is innovation and how has it changed in the 21st Century?
Why is innovation becoming increasingly important to organizations?
When is innovation used as an intervention?
What about the problem of hyping things as innovations that are not really that innovative and dismissing true innovations because they are not understood?
What are some tips, techniques, and issues for using innovation in the real world?

Your feedback would be greatly appreciated, Caroline Huebner

Here is a link to the index our class is building:

Unknown said...

Hi, Caroline,

I hope you've asked these questions of lots of people, partly because my answers would be woefully limited and because I don't think I could muster the energy to answer all of them. Each one could produce a book's worth of opinion.

With that, let me take a stab at #2. As recently as 30 or 40 years ago, a novel process or product could carry a company for many years. Think of how long Xerox prospered with copying, Polaroid with instant photography, etc.

But today, many things have changed that erode the lifespan of innovations--global communications and the internet make it easy to learn what competitors are doing. Vibrant export economies all over the world and low trade barriers geometrically increase the level of competition in any product or service area. Outsourcing and consulting (This is one of Hamel's points) spread ingenuity and best practices quickly throughout an industry.

For all those reasons, and probably many more, the ability to come up with rapid, frequent innovations has become far more important and valuable than any single innovation, no matter how revolutionary.

Thanks for reading. I hope this was useful.

Regards, John