Recently, Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter published an article entitled Innovation: The Classic Traps in the Harvard Business Review (subscription or purchase only). A good executive summary can be found on the IACCM site. Since innovation is one of my favorite topics, I’m going to summarize the salient points and expound on their importance.
Existing corporate structures, controls, and incentives work against out-of-the-box thinking.
Innovation springs from creativity, not from stifled mindsets.
The search for new ideas must go broad and deep throughout the organization.
As I’ve indicated in my Purchasing Innovation series over on eSourcing Forum and in my Sourcing Innovation series here on Sourcing Innovation, new ideas can come from anywhere, especially from where you least expect. The key is that you open your mind to the possibilities.
Innovators must be kept connected to the mainstream business.
Otherwise, they will be no more effective than their counterparts in the ivory tower. Although all innovation is good, the reality is that you need innovations that you can profit off of on a regular basis to sustain your business and sustain crucial R&D. Moreover, the best research is that which has a visualizable application (even if it will take time to apply).
You should look for small innovations as well as blockbusters.
A consistent stream of small innovations can often be as profitable as a single blockbuster, and when you consider that blockbusters don’t come along everyday …
Make sure you have Processes and Controls.
Although free thinking needs to be encouraged and supported to get the innovation ball rolling, at the appropriate point in time, each idea needs to be evaluated and a go/no go decision made from a business and ROI perspective.
Select the right leadership.
Your leadership needs to inspire your team to new heights, not drive them to the competition. If you don’t know what I mean, then you need to read more Dilbert.