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The Upside and The Downside of Innovation

It's Innovation Wednesday. So named because the Innovation Forum last week crowded my brain with so much content, I know I won't be able to cover it all in one or two posts. I'll need to devote Wednesdays all month to it. And, maybe even into January.

I promised to talk about Gary Hamel this time. He's the UPside of Innovation. Gary_hamel

Then, I'll share some Stanley Bing with you. He's the DOWNside of Innovation.

On Day 1 of the event, Gary Hamel came out on stage and proceded to generate the energy level we would all need to make it through the whole forum. It was UP, UP, UP...and focus, focus, focus.

At the start, Gary said something which resonated with me. I've been working on Lee Thayer's book, How Executives Fail: 25 Surefire Recipes for Sabotaging Your Career [coming soon...stay tuned], and he says many of the same things Gary says. For instance, Lee talks about working with CEOs on leadership ... but not noticing results because many people revert back to their old habits after he's packed up his briefcase and left the building.

Gary put it this way, "Teaching innovation is like trying to teach a dog to walk on its hind legs. They will do it for awhile, but as soon as your back is turned, the dog reverts back to running around on all fours."

There's a good visual, if ever there was one! He then went on to talk management and how it has to change. In fact, he asked a provocative question...

Are we at the END of management? At least, as we know it?

Innovation requires a different mindset, so Gary noted. What he said is right on - but not really new. I think management, for lack of a better decriptor, has always needed innovation. The process - because that's what management is, a process - needs structure, I suppose, and some way to qualify results, but...without innovation, management becomes dull, moronic, and stale. Innovation breathes life into it. It breathes life into the people - offering excitement, challenges, creativity, and results. That's me speaking, not Gary.Rose_1

Gary mentioned that innovators are romantics. I agree. He said innovators need to be nimble. I agree. His example is Google - the "poster child for innovative change, embracing employee conversations." Say...do you suppose he meant blogging?!?! Another example was Whole Foods, which operates on the principle: Whole Foods, Whole Planet, Whole People.

BTW, my example of romanticism and nimbleness in management innovation would be Best Buy. Not only are they challenging the way electronics are sold today by redesigning their stores, they have developed a unique focus on women. As evidenced by this interview of Julie Gilbert over on Mary Hunt's blog. It's called the WoLF Pack. And it gets employees excited about working at Best Buy.

I'll close today (and save the DOWNside of Innovation, with the ever-so-funny Stanley Bing for another day) by sharing Gary's Hierarchy of Needs:

  • PASSION -   should = 120%
  • CREATIVITY - should = 100%
  • INITIATIVE - should = 80%
  • INTELLECT - should = 60%
  • DILIGENCE - should = 40%
  • OBEDIENCE - should = 20%

Using this list, Gary says we should all deconstruct our management beliefs. Because, when people believe that it takes a crisis to make change - which usually involves a change in leadership - it's already too late.

So, how do you build and manage a vibrant, resilent organization? By teaching the employees to be activists: find out what causes they support. Utilize the ever-present chance of surprise! Learn from positive deviants. Be experimental.


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Patsi M. Krakoff

Yvonne, two books you will love on innovation (as will your readers): Mavericks at Work, by William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre (Fast Company cofounder and editor), and Weird Ideas That Work, Robert I. Sutton. Consider this: Open Source Innovation, where companies throw open problems to the public, to freelancers, to customers, to other scientists. It's being done by companies as traditional as Proctor and Gamble and the World Bank... of course, leadership has to be willing to be open and transparent and to admit they don't have all the answers... a bit like authors and blogs, non?


Check out this week's Business Week's lead story on Best Buy. "No Schedules. No Meetings. (No Joke.) When you have a company that crosses 24 timezones, it was time to let individual timezones disappear as well.

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