Thursday, March 27, 2008

Making Innovation everyone's Job

I am reading "The Future of Management," by Gary Hamel and Bill Breen; a wonderful book with great insights.

An excerpt....
Collapsing entry barriers, hyperefficient competitors, customer power—these forces will be squeezing margins for years to come. In this harsh new world, every company will be faced with a stark choice: either set the fires of innovation ablaze, or be ready to scrape out a mean existence in a world where seabed labor costs (Chinese prisoners, anyone?) are the only difference between making money and going bust.

Given this, it is surprising that so few companies have made innovation everyone’s job. For the most part, innovation is still relegated to organizational ghettos—it is still the responsibility of dedicated units like new product development and R&D, where creative types are kept safely out of the way of those who have to 'run the business'.

Today innovation is the buzzword du jour, but there’s still a yawning chasm between rhetoric and reality. If you doubt this, seek out a few entry-level employees and ask them the following questions:

1. How have you been equipped to be a business innovator? What training have you received? What tools have you been supplied with?
2. Do you have access to an innovation coach or mentor? Is there an innovation expert in your unit who will help you develop your breakout idea?
3. How easy is it for you to get access to experimental funding? How long would it take you to get a few thousand dollars in seed money? How many levels of bureaucracy would you have to go through?
4. Is innovation a formal part of your job description? Does your compensation depend in part on your innovation performance?
5. Do your company’s management processes—budgeting, planning, staffing, etc.—support your work as an innovator or hinder it?

Don’t be surprised if these questions provoke little more than furrowed brows and quizzical looks. Truth is, there are not more than a handful of companies on the planet that have, like Whirlpool, built an all-encompassing, corporatewide innovation system.
I will talk about Whirlpool in another post.... in the meantime, Go read the book

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