What Is Management’s Role in Innovation?

Online forum closed. It's an open question whether management, as it is currently practiced, contributes much to creativity and innovation, says HBS professor Jim Heskett. What changes will allow managers, particularly in larger organizations, to add value to the creative process? What do you think?
by Jim Heskett

Summing Up

Can creativity and innovation be managed? Judging from responses to questions posed by practitioner panelists at a recent colloquium on "Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations of the Future" at Harvard Business School, many feel that traditional management practice has little to contribute to processes of creation and innovation. While asking "What isn't management's role in innovation?," Michelle Malay Carter states the case this way: "Nearly all current performance management models are stacked against innovation." This includes, according to B. V. Krishnamurthy, confining such activities to an "R&D function" even though he questioned "whether organizations are ready for … open collaboration." Ulrich Nettesheim suggested that, if innovation is to be fostered in the conventional organization, "the role and practices of management require innovation as well." But what kind of innovation in management are we thinking about?

There were many suggestions. Nearly all began with the call for a new kind of leadership. Umesh Gupta stated, "Innovation … is directly proportional to the attitude of senior management." Ginny Wiedower commented, "Without a corporate strategy to reach defined corporate goals, innovation will be misdirected and unguided." But D. R. Elliott pointed out that "innovations and inefficiencies are persistent anomalies in organizations." Actions of top managers, according to Marc Sniukas, should "set the context; guide the process …; clearly communicate reasons …; shield creative teams …; appreciate distinctiveness in people and their thinking; and welcome change." As Dan Hoch put it, "… the real question revolves not around whether the managers have the courage, but does the CEO have the vision and fortitude to stand before the board and defend the opportunity to explore and fail?"

Joe Violette, who reminded us that innovation (as opposed to invention) is most often carried out in teams, suggested that leadership's role is also "to provide a work environment of openness built on trust where every member of the team feels free to express their views/opinions without fear of ridicule or reprisal." Debbe Kennedy called for management to insure diversity in "people, ideas…." Dhruva Trivedy called on leadership to "involve people at all levels…." Pablo Lira suggested the importance of "facilitating calculated testing environments to evaluate and secure viability of new ideas."

Other models for innovation were suggested. Lamenting that "inculcating the burning drive of the inspired entrepreneur into a large R&D staff over a sustained period is next to impossible," Wayne Hosking suggested that these ideas need "to incorporate some analysis of the venture capital model." At the HBS colloquium, participants raised questions suggesting other models. For example, given the proliferation of networking technologies, will more and more innovation be carried out in communities that cross corporate lines? Following from this, one has to ask whether truly large innovations needed by society will be achieved without traditional leadership or even, up to some point in the process, traditional rules of competition in so-called "open source" environments of the kind that have prevailed up to now largely in academia. What do you think?

Original Article

In early December, a colloquium on "Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations of the Future" is being held as part of the 100th anniversary celebration at the Harvard Business School. To kick off the colloquium, senior managers of 4 sizeable organizations heavily involved in innovation have been asked to pose "burning questions" to the assembled researchers and practitioners of innovation and creativity. Given their importance for global economic health and progress, the questions are worth pondering.

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."

Another senior executive will ask whether creativity scales. Can an innovator be more productive with the substantial resources that a large organization can provide? Or does the process work better in the loneliness of the garage with limited resources, little collective advice, and a predictably high failure rate? Are resource-constrained entities more creative because they have to find ways of dealing with the constraints? One question posed by this panel member sums up the tension associated with management's role in creativity and innovation: Is there "a theoretical sweet spot where scale fosters innovation, beyond which the complexity starts to stifle it?"

A third executive will raise questions concerning the impact of the Internet on the management of these processes. He will lament the "'lone genius' myth of creativity and innovation (that) may be limiting our ability to make meaningful progress in everything from technology to organizations to education—even society itself." The implication here is that the Internet has the potential to encourage the kind of collaboration that can prove useful in creative work. But in doing so, does it foster a kind of anarchy in which ideas flow directly between innovators with little involvement by management in a networked world? In fact, are management processes so out of tune with networked processes that they will represent a brake on collaborative innovation?

The fourth will ask what needs to be done to foster a culture of creativity in an organization. Specifically, how do managers avoid "the temptation to apply simplistic process management tools to the discovery process?"

One feature of these questions, posed independently by four thoughtful senior practitioners, is their remarkable consistency. 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?

    • Anonymous
    Management has the focus of making money and making decisions based on currently profitable projects. As management is practiced there is NO ROOM for innovation. The amount of risk taking is minimum. The adoption of new ideas is very low. Management wants predictable results; innovation is just too out there ... management has no way to predict the results of innovation=> why bother!!
    • Joe Jordan
    • Director of Business Development, Action Management Associates
    Perhaps before we begin proposing "changes" that will enable managers to more effectively contribute to the creative process, we need to invest some time in defining the real problem in this scenario. Why does management contribute so little to the processes critical to the future of every organization? Until we are willing to explore the root cause behind management organizations that are often considered irrelevant, we will experience the unfortunate disconnect between new ideas and the people that desperately need them.
    • Umesh Gupta
    • Additional General Manager, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd
    Innovation in any place, including commercial organisations, is directly proportional to the attitude of senior management. In India (maybe around world also), in my experience, organisations stopped growing after reaching a certain stage (we may call it as a level of incompetence of a particular organisation), as leadership there always tried to maintain the status quo and discouraged innovative thoughts and actions. Availability of the right resources may act as a catalyst but creativity will not flourish if organisations do not have a culture of encouraging and supporting innovation. Therefore, the single most important element to foster in an innovative culture is leadership at all levels, people who are not only missionaries in their zeal but also courageous enough to face critics.
    • Ankur Jain
    • Student
    Innovation is about creating something new out of nothing. In the modern world of globalisation, innovation is of prime importance to any company for performing well. I believe the management role should be, first, to create an environment where every employee is encouraged to think of something new; it could be in any field. The next role of management is to give considerable thought before rejecting or accepting an idea because it has been seen that what looks the most funny at first becomes an innovation to the organization. The next step should be to give awards to those whose innovations are being implemented along with giving praise to those whose innovation could not be accepted but was notable, along with feedback about why innovations were accepted. This can create a healthy environment for employees to think about something new and be innovative.
    • Shubha Mishra
    • Executive Director, BSL,Lucknow (India)
    Management & Innovation do ring a bell in my head........familiar terms.........so well forgotten in the name of 'perfectness', 'let's be different', 'by the BOOK approach' and what not.

    Sir James, the article is indeed a hard hitting one. We, in our run for progress (read recognition + money), are turning away from the real question. There is not a single person who could claim that he/she is 100% satisfied by his work/stategies in the past. Well, that's an altogether different thread of discussion, though an important one.

    Is it easy managing 'innovation'? I mean 'innovation' is all about the free flow of ideas and dreams; while 'management' sounds more like a curriculum of an MBA program (sorry to say so but that is exactly what's happening).

    I want to say something here. I've been visiting a lot of small towns in Uttar Pradesh, India, and I have pleasantly realised that small organisations in India have more people compared to the known Big ones who could teach top B-schools a lesson or two about a simple approach to management. Say, the 'Dabbawallas' of Mumbai are a proud example of this........a bunch of less educated people having 100% preciseness, 100% customer satisfaction and also a 100% self satisfaction from the job........and no it's not an MNC.

    Innovators can be successful if they understand the need and use their creativity to give a solution better than 'just a requirement'. Management must know the 'actual need' and create a near-flawless chain between customers-market-companies. Generalisation is a thing of the past for sure.
    • Michelle Malay Carter
    • Vice President, PeopleFit
    What isn't management's role in innovation?

    Executive management's role is to ensure that it institutionalizes the expectation that managers will lead the continuous improvement of their teams AND that time is allotted for them to lead improvement initiatives. Innovation should be an expectation of all workers and an accountability of all managers.

    Based upon my experience, managers are not systematically held accountable for continuous improvement of their teams. Further, most believe innovativeness and creativity are characteristics of a select few, and that it need only occur at the highest levels of the organization. Innovation snobbery is not serving us for a variety of reasons. Innovation must occur at all levels.

    Adaptive Innovation - For Cost Reduction and Increased Productivity
    Levels 1 - 3 of an organization are concerned with current operations, and their innovation focus should be value adding adaptations to current processes. Some models call this adaptive innovation.

    Strategic Innovation - For Sustainability and Competitive Advantage
    Levels 4+ should be concerned with strategic innovation - new markets, new products, new business models.

    Outsourcing Innovation is a Mistake:

    When innovation snobbery results in our thinking that innovation must be separated from the mission-delivering part of the organization and it is "outsourced" to an elite group, organizations must bear the cost of integrating the innovation back into the line organization, and this integration is often met with resistance. Further, it robs the mission-delivering part of the organization from the "psychological kick" of the opportunity to be creative, leading to disengagement.

    Innovation's Link to Accountability:

    We have got to reduce accountability conflicts of interest. As long as employees are held accountable for their output, why would they take a risk on innovation which could lead to reduced output? If instead, they were held accountable for using appropriate judgment and discretion, they could be rewarded for taking on chance on something, even if it "failed". Nearly all current performance management models are stacked against innovation. It's safer to continue the status quo.

    In Summary, To Foster Innovation Organizations Must:

    Insource innovation, i.e. expect it from the mission-delivering organization, at all levels.

    Institutionalize the idea of managers? being accountable for the continuous improvement of their team.

    Institutionalize the idea of managers being accountable for the output of their team.

    Relieve employees of output accountability, but expect full commitment and their best advice to their managers.

    I've expanded upon these thoughts at: http://www.missionmindedmanagement.com/innovation-snobbery-is-not-serving-organizations
    • B. V. Krishnamurthy
    • Director & Executive Vice-President, Alliance Business Academy
    With a few honorable exceptions, management is a net negative in creativity and innovation. Management, as it is practiced today, is more about the status quo than about new ways of doing anything. Risk-averse managers are more comfortable with incremental improvements and the very thought of disruptive innovations tends to cause a fear psychosis.

    There is a reasonable body of evidence to suggest that innovation works best when it is an organization-wide phenomenon and not confined to the R&D function alone. Equally, there is evidence to suggest that a bottom-up approach works better than a top-down deliberate push. As an example, one can consider the case of one of the most diversified companies in the world introducing a host of small appliances as a response to the nuclearization of families, only to find to its dismay that what was in fact in demand was large appliances. With double income families, and little or no time for household work, the demand for larger appliances increased. The result was a disaster, thanks largely to the "ivory tower planning" that was pushed down from the top echelons down the hierarchy. In contrast, the success of Intel's microprocessors (indeed the firm's foray from memory chips to microprocessors itself) can be attributed to the strategy being driven by people who were closest to the customer - the sales force people.

    Scaling depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is the complexity of the technology involved and the size of the final outcome. It is inconceivable that a stealth aircraft could be designed in a garage. Moreover, for business, it is critical to understand whether an idea, taken to its logical conclusion, would have a probability of success. In other words, business needs applied research, not pure research. One wonders whether this is possible for individuals except perhaps in the knowledge domain.

    The power of the Internet for collaborative work is truly immense. The moot question, however, is whether organizations are ready for such open collaboration. Even with all the safeguards, patent protection and so on, it is well-known that anything will be imitated in a year if not earlier. With product life-cycles already shrinking, one wonders what the effects of on-line collaboration could be - between a concept being tested for viability and commercialized, a new concept might have emanated thus rendering the first idea redundant.

    A culture of innovation and creativity requires organizations to break down functional barriers - innovation is everyone's business. It is equally important for organizations to minimize the impact of hierarchies so that a seamless flow of ideas is possible. Honest mistakes must be tolerated - not penalized. Finally, we would do well to look at innovation and creativity beyond a product or service perspective - considerable innovation is possible in the way we manage businesses, in the way we think, and the way we look at others.

    Expressed differently, innovation and creativity may be more a function of attitudinal changes than structural changes. Are we ready for the challenge?
    • Joe Violette
    • Retired Proj. Mgr., Bechtel Corp..
    One the the Project Manager's key responsibilities is to provide a work environrnment of openness built on trust where every member of the team feels free to express their views/opinions without fear of ridicule or reprisal. I have found by practicing this management style I have gotten some of the best ideas/innovations for both cost and schedule savings. And above all, give the credit where the credit is due. Don't be afraid of delegating. You'd be surprised how that stimulates innovation. Don't play the game fooling your management that it was your idea!
    • Emanuel Dass
    • Business Adviser, ABMC Mortgages PL
    Project Managment in the form of "network orchestration" can indeed be Innovation Management! However, this role though not formally a "line function" needs crucial "line champions" to be effective. Perhaps the championing mix changes with the innovation tasks identified as being worthy of pursuit identified by an Advisory
    Board made up of the relevant "line champions" and chaired by the "network orchestrator."
    • Rob Malcolm
    • Innovation Manager, Bendigo Adelaide Bank
    Leaders' action points to provide an environment within which innovation can flourish:

    Distribute brave pills:

    Be aware of the effect of your words on your people.

    Value diversity and encourage challenges.

    Don't punish people for having a go.

    Walk the talk with healthy behaviours.

    Cultivate champions:

    Grow, nurture & support entrepreneurs. Champions need Jack Welsh's 4"E"s & a "P". Energy, Energize, Edge, Execution and Passion.

    Don't expect people to run with what they have not created.

    Establish Creative Environments that contain 3 elements:

    A clear shared understanding of their identity & purpose.

    Effective relationships between people.

    Knowledge that is shared.
    • Dan Hoch
    • Principal, Rocky View School Division
    Any action on any level has the participant asking the question, "What may be the price that I may have to pay?" This is true for the shy guy screwing up the courage to ask the beauty on a date or for the running back before he charges into the defensive line. And it is true of the innovator. In the context of the company, he will well know if his creativity and innovation will be welcomed, be it successful or not. Are we surprised then, that with this knowledge, he will choose not to expose himself should the climate be one that doesn't accept failure as a possibility of exploration?

    Not only should the manager's job be one to welcome potential success and the even great potential for failure, but so should the CEO, who should then be able to defend that course before the shareholders. So, the real question revolves not around whether the managers have the courage, but does the CEO have the vision and fortitude to stand before the board and defend the opportunity to explore and fail?
    • John Arnott
    • President, Strategic Design Management
    I think all of the previous comments are valid in different contexts. The nature of management is to adapt to context - but it is constrained by the avoidance of risk. We are seeing some interesting innovations in business process design; the band Radiohead has completely circumvented the record industry by selling its music on-line, direct, for what the customer wants to pay! And it is working.

    The initiative by a group of students starting at MIT but including universities around the world working in a collaborative manner to develop a car that will do 200 MPG is another astonishing example, in this case a variation of 'open source' collaboration. No top-down management. (It remains to be seen how they will commercialize.)

    This latter example may be a harbinger of processes to emerge where concerned groups congregate to identify societal problems and collaborate to solve them - outside the conventional corporate structure. Twenty years ago this would be dismissed as youthful idealistic naiivete, but here it is.

    88% of new businesses use no new technology and roughly 90% of new product introductions and new businesses fail.
    Does that not suggest that there is something in the old model that is about to undergo a fundamental change? And what are corporations doing to prepare?
    • Ulrich Nettesheim
    • Co-Founder and Partner, Passages Consulting
    If the role of management (those who are in charge) is to ensure the organization survives or better yet thrives, then innovation is a core part of their responsibility. Often overlooked in this question (Hamel excepted) is that the role and practices of management require innovation as well. Many of us find ourselves using management tools (paradigms, roles, practices) that pre-date the 1950s. Management's role is to innovate the design of organizations and the practice of management as much as it is to innovate new products and services. That's a challenge most encumbent leaders are less equipped to deal with, but that the emerging leaders will demand with ever greater urgency.
    • Dhruva Trivedy
    • Chief Intervener & Promoter, PERCON
    Without debating whether management is net negative or net positive in bringing about innovation, I think what is imperative to find out is, what could be provided as a solution to the present trends of stumbling blocks on our way to innovating.

    1. As managers or management we need to set a direction to establish and encourage a culture that seeks innovative ideas from one and all. This means that the top management gives considered thought to the challenges posed by the vicissitudes in the market and prepares with a futuristic and transformational approach, rather than get arrested by routine profitability.

    2. Involve people at all levels for implementing innovation and ensure their accountabilities for innovated ideas and methods for better performance, though not at the cost of output for profitability.

    3. Involving people for innovation does not arise only out of responsibilities and accountabilities defined but, on the contrary, constantly redefined and upgraded.

    4. 'Fixing' responsibilities is something that can not be done on its own, unless ideas have been invited at all levels and they flow in from all levels. This calls for strong empathetic leadership with powerful interpersonal abilities.

    This takes us to the grassroots level of what kind of tools need to be brought in to evolve an innovative culture. The main tools inevitably are empathy and interpersonal abilities which are derivatives of perceptiveness.

    Organizations should focus on building this perceptiveness in every leader or potential leader. Analysis shows that perceptiveness is an outcome of alertness and social awareness. Organizations should primarily concentrate on sharpening alertness in every individual through simulated exercises or other training methods and also inculcate systems to create awareness of all kinds. Does Knowledge Management have an answer?
    • ML Chandan
    • Executive -Materials & Logistics, Madura Coats Pvt Ltd
    I suppose Management by Objectives would bring innovation and creativity to an organization, as each employee is given freedom to express himself and also at the same time hold the sole responsibility for the actions and ideas put forth by him/her.
    • V. S. Ramesh Rao
    • DGM - O&M, Suzlon Energy Limited
    Innovation is confused with invention and could probably be the reason for low employee engagement. This is the area where management needs to contribute.

    Also, as Michelle so lucidly points out, outsourcing of innovation to an elite group within the organization alienates those who may have the will to make the difference.

    Within my area of influence, I have given my team two slogans to follow:

    1. Innovate for Productivity.

    2. Optimize for Efficiency.

    Towards this effort, the teams have abandoned traditional measures of capacity utilization and average measures of consumption & generation, and instead devised productivity-based metrics.

    The results have been dramatic and the employee engagement has been at an all-time high. The innovation has been in the way we measure!

    As long as innovation is not confused with invention by both managers and employees, every level in the organization can contribute positively.
    • hamandawana zhou
    • management consultant, hemix projects center
    one of the three traits that distingush man from ape according Karl Marx is the ability to think in an abstract manner. this entails conceptualising non tangible processes- the underlying epicenter of innovation. Management has to motivate staff to think in other terms, to criticise and bring a fresh way of doing business. it has to be both a bottom up and a top down situation - more like a mixture of osmosis and diffusion - however, the role of management is to ensure that innovation is not destructive or obstructive to the overall health of the company. a culture of innovation has to be cultivated by management through confidence building - giving confidence to an innovative failure - a warm hand that says try harder, and applauding innovation that excels. however it has to be understood that for innovation to be sustainable the environment has to create an innovative thirsty environment.
    • Marc Sniukas
    • Consultant, Sniukas Consulting
    Top management must:
    - Set the context;
    - Guide the process in a participative and fair way;
    - Clearly communicate reasons, and expectations and educate employees;
    - Shield creative teams from distractions and pressure;
    - Appreciate distinctiveness in people and their thinking;
    - Welcome change;
    - Ask itself what it does to promote or inhibit the innovation process and how to get rid of these obstacles.

    For more details on these thoughts and other ideas on innovation, please see www.strategicinnovation.net/guide.html
    • Abd Ellatif Mohamed
    • Senior Accountant, Balubaid Group
    I think that the innovation concept as well as its acceptance varies from one country to another. For example, in developing countries they don't pay attention to innovation especially in the management process because of their managers' incompetence - managers focus on the daily process and don't pay attention to the results of the innovation that will promote existence as well as improvement in the future.

    You can find this difference between firms, too. I worked for local, international and multinational companies. The multinational companies are the sole entities that give serious interest to innovation and encourage that concept between their employees.
    • Wouter In 't Velt
    • Partner, VODW Marketing Consultants
    Innovation is not always what the world needs.
    Many innovations have never been valued by customers, and have bankrupted organizations. We just hardly hear about those. Only the successful innovations make it to best selling books.

    It is all too easy to blame management for killing a good idea. Let's not forget that management also kills dozens of ideas that deserve killing, because they would have brought only negative returns, and maybe even job losses.

    Sticking to the old is not the solution either. In order to survive, organizations must improve, and must innovate.

    Management faces a very tricky balancing act. On the one hand, they should stimulate creativity and innovation, by creating an environment for experimenting, that allows failure.

    On the other hand, management needs to have a process in place to stimulate productive ideas and weed out the 'bad ideas'.

    To be successful in this balancing act, management should be strongly involved, without calling all the shots. A collaborative approach should be used to make decisions and to move ideas from one stage to the next, connecting employees from different corners of the organization, as well as connecting to customers.

    For innovation to deliver value, innovators should acknowledge that not all that is new is necessarily good. Management should acknowledge that your customers may be better judges of the next best thing.
    • Anonymous
    The term "management" really is counter to innovation. Innovation can't be managed but it can be facilitated by creating environments that give people space to think and share and providing structures that enable ideas to captured and explored. What then is the real role of management? To be the facilitators and champions of knowledge transfer and innovation.
    • N. Sushil Kumar
    • Head Chemical Operations, Imaging Industry
    I would like to point out that if the managment facilitates the following things their firms would become more innovative.

    1. Encourage or provoke the team to come forward with innovative solutions. Practise nonhierarchical attitudes when dealing with the suggestions.

    2. Encourage the QA / production /R&D / Sales / Marketing team to visit the customer's workplace to understand how he feels about your product and see whether there a latent need that was not otherwise serviced by the firm.

    3. Make people think of out of the box solutions. Many times logical thinking hinders creative thinking.

    4. Facilitate support of outside agencies to help in designing your product rather than doing everything from scratch by yourself. Or think of colloborative work with different agencies. It would be cheaper, quicker, and less hassle oriented, and the cost of such developments is easily measurable, which subsequently helps in appropriate costing followed by pricing.

    5. Encourage team spirit and boost the team to achieve the company goal. This is the biggest challenge for top management. Select team members with the right frame of mind and ignite the spark in them. The leader has to create a positive atmosphere starting with listening to the team to supporting the team till the end sincerely.
    • K. Sugeeta
    • Student, ICSI
    Innovation is all about identifying/creating something new. NEW could be a product, market, model, method, etc. And innovators are none other than we the people. Which person has what idea that could lead to an invention nobody knows?

    So the success behind managing will be in giving chance & encouragement to every individual in an organization to participate by recognizing their contributions and rewarding the best.

    The course of innovation involves costs. Sometimes one may spend but end up with nothing or no notable contribution. But in this way at least we could identify at least "one way not to follow." (T. Edison also failed 101 times before one phenomenal invention.)

    Organizations can implement an online portal wherein the employees have to post about their experiments. This would avoid the cost of reinventing the wheel.

    Innovation is all pervasive and managing it is a big challenge.:)
    • Naren Ratwatte
    • consultant, One Point Three Limited
    If the role of management is to support achieving immediate goals and objectives and then create potential to achieve ever more stretching goals in the future, then, being the lead in innovation is a given.

    The trillion dollar question is: can they sell this need to the rest of the organisation? And if the answer is yes, then how best should they do it? It's no secret that being an innovative organisation is about having a culture that challenges and stretches the status quo, well embedded and in place.

    In our experience the difficulties of creating this culture is what deters management from making the changes required for an innovative culture... we hear a lot of: "things are going well at the moment, why rock the boat?"... "we have worked hard to get our existing culture in place" when actually the existing culture created itself!! That's until a competitor comes along and rocks? no, capsizes the boat! That is when innovation becomes the most important initiative in the business. Sadly however it never reaches the important buzzword stage!!

    How many companies have to 'bite the dust' before all senior mangers everywhere realise that innovation is a key ingredient in their organisation's culture? It is the thing that makes your sales staff take insights from customers and turn them into value, it is the thing that makes your employees look at competition and change the way they do things at work that delivers value to your customers. It is the thing that creates a compulsive urge in your workforce to look at how they do things and then... look at it again.

    Creating an innovative organisation is the responsibility of management, that is, if they believe that their role is to create potential to achieve ever more stretch goals in the future. It takes a lot of courage to embark on a campaign to improve innovation within an organisation, but courage is what separates the good from the great.
    • Bruce R. Duncil
    • Alderon Consulting, Inc.
    Is 'bottom-up' discovery more effective than 'top-down' strategy? Is innovation better driven by resource scarcity? Are networking processes that encourage collaboration manageable? Can process management tools improve discovery? Let's cut to the chase. What you really want to know is: can innovation be bottled, marketed and sold like any other commodity?

    Remarkable that Professor Christensen's work has apparently been overlooked here. My understanding of his developing theories is that innovation is facilitated by a) 'looking outside' versus 'looking inside' (not top-to-bottom-to-top), b) new, unfettered (not scarce or plentiful) resource allocation schema, and c) effective (not necessarily 'managed') communication at all levels. He provides breakthrough concepts in measuring innovation, a necessary prerequisite for any management of it. And people, surprisingly, will always perform so as to avoid penalty and obtain reward.

    As long as management is substituted for leadership and features/functions are mistaken for benefits and advantages, there will be no innovation in managing innovation. Few of us were taught that nursery rhymes, like business cases, had a point: they are designed to teach us about human nature. Anyone recall what the farmer did with the Golden Goose?
    • Fernando das Neves Gomes
    • Senior Consultant, Independent
    Managers have more importance in this new world than ever. They have to be the most informed ones, they have to put their attention all over the world in all innovation providers to see what really is important to their products, clients, and environment, and create strategies to grab the technology. They have to be the first ones to know what's happening, they have to be the first ones to grab the patent to their products.

    In this new world, they have to transfer investments from the organically grown to the innovation chain.... In this new world, the inputs [grow] incrementally in a faster way.

    Best regards,
    • Ulysses U. Pardey, MBA
    • Managing Director, Am-Tech, S.A., Panama, Rep. of Panama
    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?

    A. As it is today
    B. Why innovation and creativity ?
    C. What could be done ?

    A. Based on what I have lived, heard and observed so far, generally speaking, if your actual job is not innovation / creativity then you have neither the time nor the blessing to proceed with it.

    B. It is commonly accepted, at least intellectually, that innovation and creativity are necessary for a competitive advantage and for profit growth. In general terms, good ideas very often come from those who are actually doing the job, the employees, and also from those using the products, the customers; however, we must be aware that the consent for allowing this to be turned into useful knowledge for the company comes from the company itself, the board.

    We can call this practice any name that might fit the cause but what really matters is that innovation and creativity become, in any company worldwide, an
    easy-to-get and affordable standard way of working, as essential as accounting and having customers. Not just for companies that became privileged ones.

    C. Gratitude, respect, clarity, time allocation and teamwork within the company and among employees and outsiders could be key success factors for the advancement of this management practice.

    I believe that this could be indeed a great opportunity for the board, management and employees as well as for the academic community in general to build up together a handy common ground for profit growth. The more adequately we care for our employees, the better their contribution to profit growth.
    • Pablo Lira
    • Director, Innovargh Foundation. Caracas - Venezuela
    Management has three key roles on innovation: Firstly, coherence and consistency between innovation strategy and values (decision level) and managment action (daily executive practice); not only in one manager, but the whole team management. That is what I call "management laser integrity".

    Secondly, foster and instill a sense of improving and find new ways to do it or make it better; or the other way around, facilitating calculated testing enviroments to evaluate and secure viability of new ideas. And thirdly, identify, reward and retain the best talented people in the organization and prepare to let free others to continue their careers some other place.
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • VP, Retail Ventures
    The role of a manager in innovation is twofold. Towards the people being managed, the role of the manager is to be a nurturer of innovation. Towards superiors, the role of the manager is to be a protector of innovation. Hence, a manager is to create the optimal internal environment for innovation and then protect it from external forces which would try to destroy it. It is easier to protect innovation if the nurturing of innovation points the innovation on a path that is in concert with corporate goals/strategy.

    Of course, if that is what you want a manager to do, then you have to reward that type of behavior.
    • Wayne Hosking
    • VP Corp Strategic Development, The Allied Defense Group, Inc.
    It is undoubtedly true that management can make a significant contribution to fostering a culture of innovation; many valid approaches are eloquently discussed above. However, legitimately scaling the 'garage shop' is quite another matter.

    While I have nothing more than intuition and empirical experience to support it, it is my opinion that inculcating the burning drive of the inspired entrepreneur into a large R&D staff over a sustained period is next to impossible. Perhaps it can be accomplished in certain super-high margin industries.

    This discussion needs to incorporate some analysis of the venture capital model. A good piece of research would be to look at the career average hourly compensation of the recipient of VC funding. I'd be willing to bet that that most companies seriously attempting innovation invest substantially more on a per-person basis than these entrepreneurs are earning.
    • Ginny Wiedower
    • Marketing Executive, Power Technology, Inc.
    Strategy is integral to every part of business, including innovation. Without a corporate strategy to reach defined corporate goals, innovation will be misdirected and unguided. Management brings that overarching corporate strategy to the table, and from there innovation can emerge to achieve the defined goals of the company or organization. Management most certainly needs a seat at the table of innovation.
    • Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE
    • Executive VP & Chief Administrative Officer, St. Francis Hospital - The Heart Center
    The cliche is leadership is doing the right thing and management is doing things right. In other words, leadership is focused on setting a new vision or innovation, and management controls or directs people and resources according to principles or values that have already been established.

    All businesses must innovate or risk being replaced by alternative organizations that can better serve the needs of their customers. The rate and extent of innovation required is proportionate to the level of instability in the environment in which they operate.

    Innovation has been defined as a creation of a new device or process as a result of study and experimentation, the creation of something in the mind, and the act of starting something for the first time; introducing something new. To begin the journey of innovation, a direction needs to be set.

    In my view leadership must set the new direction and then empower bottom-up innovation toward the new direction.
    Enduring corporate performance is conditional on and reflective of the organization's ability to concurrently exploit its existing product or service offerings while exploring new products and services that will create new customers or markets. That balance of diametrically oppossing goals in managements domain. Put in the innovation terminology, companies must both incrementally and strategically innovate, especially during times of extreme change.

    This does not mean that an organization should abandon its core business, values, and tactics for risky opportunities nor does it mean that an organization should stubbornly focus on its core business disregarding new ideas and business models. In reality, an organization need not escape its past to renew itself for the future.

    Barriers to innovation can be divided into structural barriers, process barriers, competency barriers, and cultural barriers. Once management systematically removes those barriers, the bottom-up innovation should flourish.
    • adam hartung
    • managing partner, spark partners
    Management focuses on how to defend & extend what was previously done, including lowering risks to the embedded success formula. Management works to define the boundaries before taking action - in the name of good planning. By locking-in what has previously worked, and limiting investments into what leverages existing assets, management, innovation options are considerably narrowed.

    Innovation adds value by reacting to market needs without regard to what was previously done. Innovation cannot flourish if limited to past solutions, building on old product designs, leveraging product architectures or embedded technologies, fit with existing distribution systems, or supporting existing brand positions and other lock-ins defined by management. Management rules are helpful when optimizing a success formula, but clearly inhibit innovation.

    Managers frequently "dummy down" innovation to those things which really defend & extend the past. Product line extensions and distribution expansion become "innovations" to management, while entrepreneurs and R&D folks would consider these adaptations.
    • D R Elliott
    • CEO, TEQ Development
    Every enterprise is susceptible to enlargement or erosion as a result of innovation. It has been my observation that the psychological gradients that drive innovation exceed the practical limits of management authority. If this is the general case, it may be hubris to assume that strategic realignments of management can change the quantitative or qualitative output of innovation. Strategically, management can harvest more innovation by developing managers that are more observant and objective. However, understanding that there will be trade offs is no less important when seeking higher innovation performance.

    Innovations and inefficiencies are persistent anomolies in organizations. They also have the unfortunate habit of looking the same to the inattentive observer. Both are driven by behavior gradients embedded in differing degrees within individuals comprising the workforce. Innovators tend to be ego driven to change the external work processes. While this is disruptive to current practices, it can create new opportunities with the result that greater value can be released in the work process. Slackers are ego driven to promote inefficiency by shirking their responsibilities and increasing their leisure time. This disruption increases the slacker's internal value relative to their contribution to the work process. Paradoxically, slackers can even highlight inherent innovativeness within the enterprise by demonstrating its ability to absorb inefficiency while meeting objectives. Since innovation and inefficiency both involve disruptions to the work process, it is no surprise that
    management has trouble distinguishing between the two. Thus the need for greater observancy.

    Greater objectivity in innovation management requires a discipline of disinterestedness in the heirarchy of beliefs and values that binds managers and employees to their particular enterprise. Without such a mindset it is virtually impossible to objectively value opportunities and risks that 'disrupton by innovation' entail. Such 'creative destruction' of enterprise values is clearly consistent with the macroeconomics theories espoused by the likes of Schumpeter. Unfortunately, the management behaviors that will be most effective in promoting objective innovation also promote a moral ambiguity in belief systems. Since this is also a trait of sociopathic personalties, it will be important decide how much innovative objectivity is desirable when compared to the moral cohesiveness of the business organization.
    • Kolawole
    • Manager, Valuenigeria
    Far above a top-down approach, bottom-up has the net of advantage linking the organization to the customers because staff are more likely to interface with customers and thus know more about their needs than top management. It also has the advantage of motivating the staff since they have a feeling of being a part of decision making. The challenge lies in putting structures in place for sieving useful info from what is not relevant to management objectives.
    • richard michel simanjuntak
    • Senior Mfg Manager, PSEC
    The key point of innovation is how the company is able to take up the challenge for competitivenes regularly and continuously. When the company survives and is able to implement those of their resources to meet customer satisfaction, it indicates that management innovations are there.

    However, management innovation should find how to realize the organization's objective and develop and utilize their resources by actively influencing the surrounding environment.
    • Anonymous
    There are many who have already posted comments for which I agree and disagree. Being a low level manager in a very large global organization, I have seen that some Senior/Executive management want to be controlling of every facet of the organization and are adverse to the assumption of risk that is inherent with innovation. Shareholders, too, may not like those organizations that, in an attempt to foster creativity, may have higher levels of failures associated with this risk.

    Smaller organizations, with fewer levels of management in the hierarchy, may take a devil take all attitude when it comes to the assumption of risk associated with these innovations and thus have higher levels of creativity and innovation. This would be my hypothesis.

    A sidebar comment is that in larger organizations where pay may be used as an incentive to foster this creativity, the senior managers tend to take credit for those ideas bubbled up from the lower ranks. There are also time considerations on how long it takes those good ideas to move up the ranks when senior management themselves are averse to risk and change. It has been known to take two years or more here for some ideas to bubble up through our grassroots process. How truly reactive are multinational corporations under these types of circumstances?
    • Anonymous
    Above comments are laced with all kinds of trade words with varying meaning depending on what one is experienced in or with. Innovation, Strategies, creativity, management, inefficiencies, anomalies, ...the whole ten yards of gobbledygook.

    I believe only one suggested giving people responsibility, which is key to getting the best from any worker or manager, in small or large organizations. Give them the task and let them make their own mistakes...something my mentor many years ago offered me.

    Then there is the question of recognition that few talk about. I know an engineer who by his design, saved the Boeing company around $1 million for each 737 model coming out since around 1998...yet no recognition was ever given for that innovation, that redesign of a part.

    As others have indicated, the correct question is not about managers' roles, it's about innovation and how to obtain that. Generally policy from on high does not allow it, and possibly Unions don't (since they try to structure all workers into what they can and can't do). My visit to the post office yesterday: I was handed the Priority Tape roll and told I'd have to seal my own package...the clerk wasn't allowed to do it for me. I don't know where that policy came from, but it cause a slight delay in their closing for the day.

    Many companies and governments set pay scales based on BLS statistics and union negotiations, not, unfortunately, on education, experience, training, or initiative, along with the two things above, responsibility and recognition, pay also needs fixing. Only then will anyone see, or perhaps continue to see, great innovation within a corporation.
    • David Matta
    • President, Dagpa
    We tend to ignore the fact that innovation, development, implementation and results constitute a sequence and a chain. The parts are neither equivalent nor are they unrelated. There are companies that do their implementation job very well. They have to consistently repeat the same processes and this is what is lauded as quality.

    I personally do not see whether more innovation would add much value when, for example, the demand is relatively stable and healthy, or when there are no foreseen threats to address, so why disrupt the operations? There are continuous improvements to be made, of course, sort of mini adaptive innovations, but this should not be confused with the current buzz of innovation worship.

    For some others that are facing existential challenges or that see breakthrough opportunities, strategic innovation is a necessity. This, however, should not be confused with a system that is functional.

    On the other hand, we tend to believe that we own, or can explicitly direct or monopolize, the creative process. Creativity will constantly spring from everywhere anytime and not be confined to any creative or business development department.

    In my view, and for a functioning organism, creativity is needed in small doses and at arranged times where everybody would have the right to contribute.

    Too much creativity and innovation at anytime and anywhere could be harmful to your health to the companies focus and necessary inertia.
    • Anonymous
    Some comments above are relating management to risk.
    The technical minded managers usually find low technical risk in an innovation.
    The marketing minded managers find low market risk.
    The financially minded managers seem to forget all their risk taking theories.

    The biggest risk for a company is to have lousy managers.
    And the article above does not suggest anything about that.
    Is that so obvious?
    • CJ Cullinane
    After pondering this question and vacillating back and forth I have to say management is most often a hinderance to real innovation. In my experience large egos, risk aversion, and bureaucracy seem to get into the way of true innovation.

    The fear of failure on a manager's 'watch' has most likely doomed some great innovations. Tightly controlled and scheduled research department are often working on the 'bosses'' ideas and do not have time for stretch projects.

    Many great ideas and innovations occur after a person has left the corporate world because no one would take a chance. What would have happened if HP had given Steve Wozniak of Apple his own lab to follow his dream?

    Can a large corporation grow innovation and innovators? I doubt it, but they have to at least try to stay out of their way and let them take some risks.
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • VP, Retail Ventures
    A number of people have responded saying that successful innovation needs to be linked to strategy. The problem is that quality formalized strategic planning is disappearing from the scene. Rather than trying to link innovation to a specific strategy, companies are increasingly saying that innovation IS the strategy. That's sort of like saying that incresing profits is the strategy.

    Innovation is like mining for gold. If you don't know where to look, you'll be mining a little bit everywhere and find nothing. With a sound strategy, you will know where to be mining and thereby have greater success in your innovation.
    • Henry Maigurira
    Management 's functional utility of setting goals for the company 's growth should possess inherent positive consequences for a company's status. How innovative management is comes from its derivatives of its internal and external control of its finances, leadership style, adaptation to its environment, level of partenership and attitude with competitors, support sytems with regulators, government and society. If innovation is strategically computed with cost effective drives, pricing systems and reporting standards, sustainability is achievable.
    • Howard Dokua-Smith
    • Patients Health Systems
    Creativity and Innovation are events that occur in spurts. Creativity can occur in a garage, corner office, bathroom or sitting on a Park bench. Organizations do not have the patience to live with innovators.

    Except for the biotech and pharmaceutical research companies, who in many cases have 5 to 10 years to spin innovation, most companies do not understand the mental processes of innovators.

    The closest analogy is that of a novel writer who retires into the woods to write a blockbuster. She spends many days without writing a single line and other days she writes up a storm.

    Managing innovation translates to schedule, timelines, budget and distractions to the creative mind. Sure you want the product or the idea to come to market someday. This must happen in a natural process. Most of world renowned 3M products happen by unbridled tinkering.

    Internet collaboration could spell a never-ending creative process where team member are tempted to bring in other experts, friends or former professors.

    It is different to be an innovator of Google type product and an innovator of super helicopter for the military. Google type does not require management whereas the helicopter requires because the end product is limited by physical performance constraints.

    A manager of Innovation department (if exists) must be an innovator who can identify with the innovators without expressing any type of pressure.
    • Uche Nworah
    • Senior Lecturer, London Metropolitan Business School
    I have really found the comments very enlightening. I was wondering if anyone have thought about how Innovation and Creativity could help developing economies, bearing in mind the limited resources governemnts and managers of SMEs have at their disposal.

    My worry is that little progress on this front is not readily accepted and acknowledged in the west due to the global competition race. I will be presenting a paper on this sometime in February 2008 in Abuja (Nigeria) and will appreciate additional insights into the the issue of creativity and innovation as it concerns African countries.
    • Howard Dokua-Smith
    • Patients Health Systems
    To Uche Nworah

    So that this section does not become a thread that deviates from the subject please provide an email address where others may contribute to your request.
    • Puneet
    • Engineer, Adobe Systems
    Innovation has different meanings for the organisations with different motives and based on the motive, the role the mangement in fostering innovation varies.
    Let's first talk about the profit making organisations:-
    For these organisations, the inovation is a kind of magic wand that increases the business/profit sizeably. Here the role of management should be:

    1. Providing the high level road map for innovation...like identifying the areas in which it wants to innovate.

    2. The recruitment of the right kind of people who can actually innovate.

    3. Showing flexibilty in terms of resources to be allocated for innovation.

    4. Showering Rewards/Recognition generously.

    Next come the non-profit organisations like governments having altrusitic motives. For these organisations innovation is more about formulating efficent and effective strategies to speed up development of the society, etc. Here the innovation has to come from the top levels of the organisation. Here the management itself has to play the role of innovators and hence their role becomes even more critical.

    Then we have organisations like defense forces. Here too the top management role as innovators is critical.

    So, in my opinion, for an organisation to innovate consistently, the management role is indispensible.
    • Scott D Witt
    • Principal, Witt Marketing
    To Uche Nworah:

    The following articles should provide you with useful ideas and concrete examples that are directly relevant to innovation in Africa.

    ?The Strategy Sandbox? by CK Prahalad.
    This article provides an inspiring set of ideas about how constraints can drive meaningful innovation. Prahalad provides examples of innovations in Indian healthcare that provide quality and low cost. [http://www.strategy-business.com/press/freearticle/06306]

    ?HP Engineers a Megacommunity? by Barbara Waugh.
    Following the idea that knowledge is the most important factor in product (and innovation), the article describes how people at HP use the megacommunity concept to train engineers in Africa. [http://www.strategy-business.com/li/leadingideas/li00050?pg=1]
    • Scott D Witt
    • Principal, Witt marketing
    There are many examples of major firms that are acknowledged as innovators. Clearly the Management that is practiced at these firms is contributing to innovation, creativity and profits.

    So what are the gaps between the firms that lead and those that follow?

    Ultimately the owners get what they are asking for, whether they realize it or not.

    - Are they long-term investors vs. short-term traders/speculators? (Are they wise men or fools?)

    - Are they so focused on short-term quarterly gains that an executive would be a fool to pursue anything else?

    The managers will follow the owners? priorities and set the tone for the business. Everything else flows from them.

    - What are the manager's personalities and attitudes? Are they infected with fear, greed, cynicism and hubris? can they let go and trust others? do they have the courage to question the conventional wisdom? can they admit to making wrong turns? can they change their own minds?

    - Do they think And/Both or Either/Or? can they support Skunkworks and programs for the rank and file?

    - Can they maintain order-amid-change and change-amid-order?

    - Do they and their employees all agree on what business they are in? Are they pursuing something that stirs the blood?

    - Do they anticipate disruption and change or do they hide from it?

    - Do they consistently hire people that are smarter than they are? or are do they fall under the Law of Crappy People?

    - How do they handle the different types of failure? do they value the lessons learned from good failures?

    - Do they distinguish between cool inventions that impress techies and meaningful innovations that create value for customer and company?

    - Do they periodically look for big shiny silver bullets (typical American biz), or for quiet, continuous, incremental improvement (Toyota)?

    - Do they allocate time and resources for the pursuit of projects that are not obvious ?sure-things? (3M, Google)?

    - Do they set expectations for suggestions and input from all employees on a regular basis? (e.g. Toyota gets an average of 25-50 suggestions per employee per year, with up to 80% implementation).

    - Do they pursue cross-pollination between functions so that everyone has a broader picture of the customers and the business? (e.g. Pixar University)

    - Do they only hire from their own industry?

    - Does the Voice of the Customer flow throughout the business? Does everyone in the firm know what matters to Customers? (can they tell if a new idea, observation or discovery has the potential to improve the customer?s life?)

    - Do they see for themselves or do they ?outsource their eyes??

    - Do they expect innovations to occur throughout the business? and do they monitor innovation throughout the business?

    Any management team that can answer these questions in the affirmative is probably contributing to creativity and innovation in their business.

    And if more shareholders and owners actually valued and rewarded these characteristics, we would see many more innovative businesses.
    • Katie Konrath
    • Fresh Thinker and Creativity Blogger, www.getfreshminds.com
    The role of management in innovation is a tricky one.

    If a manager is controlling innovation in the organization in a top-down method, it's incredibly easy for them to squash any ideas that the people under them have. They can create a climate that doesn't encourage risk, or put too much emphasis on making the "right" decisions for the company. They can raise their eyebrows at "stupid ideas", or make it too hard for ideas to get noticed.

    With a top-down strategy, there are a lot of ways to keep people from innovating.

    In my opinion, letting innovation come from the bottom up is the best way. It's the people who interact with the product/service/customers every day who see where the opportunities are, not the ones looking at balance sheets. Those individuals can come up with some pretty great ideas.

    But, there's only one problem. If the management doesn't support the creative efforts of the employees, nothing will ever happen with those ideas.

    As a result, I think the best innovation strategy is mixed: Ideas should come from the bottom, but the people at the top need to want those ideas for the whole thing to work.
    • Peter Bryant
    • Macquarie University
    Innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship are intimately related in the creation and use of novel forms of value. However, none of these processes is linear or formulaic and they all share high risk, dynamic uncertainty and some random walking. This suggests that innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship are hard to manage in a systematic fashion. Evidence supports that view. Nonetheless, I'm convinced that management (which embarces more than managers) plays a vital role in nurturing and guiding innovation and creativity. For example, management promotes cultural change by endorsing risk and uncertainty. Management also plays a key role in designing organizational systems that allow creativity to emerge and flourish.

    Yet even good management is not enough in itself. In fact, part of the art of innovation is knowing what you don't know and can't do alone, and then opening up the organization to exploratory learning. Put another way, effective management of innovation and creativity requires the spice of entrepreneurial strategy.

    Many of the posts in this discussion suggest that management doesn't do this very well, and they doubt there is room for much improvement. For myself, I'm more optimistic. Years of experience working with entrepreneurs and management suggests to me that creative energies and passions are widespread, although often poorly recognized and utilized. If that's true, then we need to do better at releasing these energies through coaching, mentoring, nurturing deep smarts, cultural change and insightful leadership.
    • J. R. McDowall
    In my experience, organisations failing to acknowledge more creative methods of operation usually find themselves adopting ideas they once thought 'unworkable'. Failure to accommodate more innovative individuals and approaches can cost a company time and money. An effective management strategy is one which at least allows for the exploration of new thinking. Who knows what talent may be lurking in the mail room? Everything I have read relating to creativity and business suggests that the majority of the workforce at all levels desire a greater degree of creativity in their work. If our workers knew that we valued their creative contributions, perhaps staff morale would be raised, we could cut our sick days and save money because we might just have fewer people away with work-related stress. Can innovation be managed? Should innovation be managed? 'Managed creativity' seems something of an oxymoron, while creative management
    on the other hand is something which is not only possible but essential for sustained growth in any modern business.
    • Joan Lederman
    • artist/entrepreneur-with-limits, The Soft Earth
    Whether a person works alone or in an organization, being open to innovative ideas that become materialized requires being ready for the releasing stage, when there is little or no control over outcome.

    I could lose my job. I could lose my investment. I could realize it has no hope of being absorbed and valued (at this time, place, or ever.) I could realize that it is recognized as brilliant and is stonewalled for reasons of competition. And so on ...

    Management can have the capacity to lead and support, but when the going gets rough, what actually propels management? How DO we interpret that mission statement? WHO do we insert as gatekeepers? WHAT time limits do we use to constrain our imaginations? HOW do we fund stategic and scenario planning? HOW committed are we to a secure job, emotional comfort? Do we invite in and allow points of view that jolt our worlds?

    At the end of the day, are we willing to sit with questions and wonder and discern ... are we willing to eliminate our jobs? When we have chaos from too much change or inquiry, on the other side of the scale from order, which may constrict and deaden needed change ... is a leader speaking for chaordination? Ids a leader inviting us to trust that chaos and order do come in phase together, and it's time to trust the process.
    • Pragnesh Choksy
    • Student, ICAI
    "The sky is the limit of the growth." This clearly means that there is no limit for Growth. It is futile to say that there is no room for growth under any circumstances. If you are among those who wants to be tomorrow's Slim Karlose or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Laxmi Mittal or Mukesh Ambani, etc. I think all will agree with this statement. Now the question is how to keep growth flourishing forever. The answer is simple to remain a successful innovator forever.

    I think the ideal situation for any organisation to emerge as successful on the world scene through successful innovation is possible only when each and every employee of any cadre taking from peon to CEO is free to put his own creativty at the front. Now the immediate reaction of this suggestion is that there is the chance of failure. Yes, indeed, it is so but what then? It is always good to to remain active with an appetite for growth than to be still. There is a great possiblity that by putting your efforts to settle down the struggle that would have arouse due to failure of innovation may opens up new horizon for growth. After all, failure is the best teacher ever. Let me put one example, Newton discovers the Law of Gravity. It doesn't mean that there was no gravity affecting the earth before that. It is only the great sense of consciousness on happening of things around you. Some may argue on this point that it is the reason why it is to be called "DISCOVERY" O.K. Accepted... But look at other invention even, what it is after all. Taking any substance - Finding its real nature - and putting it in use by making a combination of two or more such substance as per need. It is only the reaarrangements of things happening around us in one or another fashion. So lastly I would say work with great consciousness keeping in mind your greatest goal and work upon it. Innovation is just a byproduct of your journey to success irrespective of the fact of where you are......!!
    • Hemal Sanghvi
    • Tech Consultant, MasterCard
    In the corporate world, conceiving ideas is one thing and taking these ideas to market is a whole another game. Of course, without great ideas there's no marketing. Creative foks can come up with great ideas but they'll need management commitment for taking their ideas from concept to life (or market).

    The biggest & maybe the hardest role that management can play for innovators is to separate innovation from politics. Be it the evaluation of ideas, creating business a case or funding / developing the idea - all of these cannot avoid politics. This is where the commitment from management can help.
    • Anonymous
    I only have one comment:

    This is a laissez faire item.
    • Anonymous
    [Management's role is] balancing the organizational need and the individual need.
    • Rob Stancliffe
    • Web Systems Manager
    I heard an interesting anecdote from a young second lieutenant who called range orders for a mortar team at a field artillery contest (apparently the Army has competitions in this area).

    He said that his team was already very efficient, and accurate. Upon examining why he was there, he saw that the only reason is because in competition, an officer must call range orders. Wanting to do more, he started carrying the munitions from the storage area to the firing range so that his team could put more shells down range, which happened to be the margin of victory. The point of his story was that management is always to support the actual doers, to allow the doers to focus on getting shells down range, or rolling out a new marketing campaign or a new brand.

    As long as management focuses resources on clearly defined strategic problems, it has to be better in places where there are lots of resources brought to bear on a single problem. If it turns out otherwise, I would blame poor management and do another study.
    • Joe Violette
    • Retired Proj. Mgr., Bechtel Corp..
    I don't mean to offend any of the contributors but to me many of the comments are too "text bookish." In some cases "innovation" has been confused with "invention." "Invention" is usually best done by individuals. "Innovation" is generally best done by teams. I never talk about "managing" without also linking it to "leadership." They go together and leadership is about "people." People usually contribute best when working as a "team." The manager's job is to lead and challenge each team member so that each member can perform to their maximum capability while working within the objectives of the project plan. However, the manager must always remember that he/she is in responsible charge of their project or it can become uncontrollable with no discipline.
    • Nicholas R. Battista
    • SVP, Global Bank
    Innovation is both a top-down and bottom-up process. Based on what I've read, I believe 3M is at the forefront of the this process. Sr. Management facilitates bottom up creativity by allowing their R&D staff to work on anything they like. That's why we have "Post It Notes." Generally, senior management should be open to ideas that percolate up from the staff, allow the promising ones to develop and allowing people to make mistakes without negative consequences. On the other hand, management should be able to launch an idea into guts of the organization and have it advanced as people get behind it. Unfortunately, many members of senior management wouldn't know a good idea if they had both hands on one in the bright light of day. It's rare in my experience that senior managers have any good ideas of their own. Moreover, many staff members are unwilling to advance an idea for fear of ridicule or worse: sanction.
    • John Renesch
    • Futurist, social innovator, www.Renesch.com
    It seems to me that innovation is born out of a culture that encourages experimentation, allows for failures and fosters radical thinking. When a context like this exists in the organizational culture, people feel free to be truly creative. Leaders are the stewards of these qualities. Managers should be charged with making sure this culture is maintained although they often end up stifling innovation by over-managing people.
    • John Farnbach
    • Principal, Silver Streak Partners LLC
    In my experience, there's a definite conflict between innovation and management because the two functions are based on diametrically opposed world views. Business executives are held accountable for predictable results, but innovation is inherently unpredictable.

    Companies start with a major innovation, and then enter a building phase, where they will build the new idea into a viable business operation. But then the company enters a capitalization phase, where they make money by capitalizing on what worked in the past. By the time the company gets good at capitalizing on past success, they've lost the ability to innovate.

    Management practices in the capitalization phase are toxic to innovation. Sound business plans with schedules, milestones, and profit forecasts reduce risk and ensure that the company's resources will be wisely invested. But innovations, especially radical innovations, can't be shoehorned into the predictable investment model. When they can't, they perish for lack of resources

    What can executives do to foster innovation? Identify a few people that have the breadth of technical and business knowledge, and the personal bent, to be good innovators. Rent an office across town to isolate them from the company's planning processes. Keep them informed and connected with customers and markets. Then give them a budget and see what they come up with. But don't ask them for a business case for innovation.
    • Toshiaki Kuroki
    • Director, I Management Japan
    Not a comment on innovation, but I admire that Professor Heskett always raises good points we should think about deeply.

    BANZAI, Professor Heskett!
    • P.A. Habeeb Rahiman
    • Asst. Professor, Marthoma College of Management & Technology
    Management Innovation:

    The one and only thing that is going to decide the success of an organisation in future is not a product or process innovation, but management innovation.

    When you innovate in the true sense of the term, you are able to create a space in future where there is absolutely no competition for you, where you decide the rule of the game, where you become all powerful and virtually rule the world.

    When you innovate, you should be able to create exclusive customers for yourself. To start with, you may end up with increased market share, but again you should have a long term strategy wherein you aim at building up a solid customer base, where they should be made to enjoy doing business only with you.

    'ONCE A BUYER, ALWAYS A BUYER' should be what you should target, while innovating management.

    I firmly believe that it is really possible and if we examine the history of undisputed world leaders in any segment, some time or other, we come across an instance of innovation, not wholly or in full measure, but substantially.

    Only when you are really imaginative, and stretch your thinking ahead 10 or 20 years, minimum, you will be able to come out with something solid and substantial.

    This holds true not only for companies, but for nations too. The power of thinking is so sharp, when you unleash it, you yourself will be surprised.

    In fact, the entire success story of humanity itself is owed to management innovation, and in fact it is belittling the topic of the discussion if we limit it to the business environment alone.

    To sum up, management innovation is about making everything possible.
    • Senthil
    • Hacker, http://uthcode.sarovar.org
    As Isaac Asimov thinks about innovation, "Well, the most exciting thing in science, one that heralds new discoveries is not "Eureka", I have got it, but "Thats funny"..

    The same applies to the technologies and the processes as well. If the management encourages such an attitudes which explores the free flow of thought, questioning of status quo, so informally. It is definitely encouraging the highest form of innovation. Thats why we see software companies went ahead and adopted "cooler" atmosphere for offices.

    And it is also the Management's decision to encourage and reward innovation if they see benefits to the business out of those ideas.
    In my opinion, the culture and the reward process definitely helps innovative ideas coming out from an organization.
    • Ian Plowman PhD
    • Director, Ian Plowman Pty Ltd
    Evolutionary psychology informs the topic of innovation nicely. People who gravitate to positions of leadership tend to be conservative. Their role is to protect the status quo, a function that is quite unconscious. This strategy has kept humankind safe for about 90,000 years. However it is predicated upon the external environment being stable. When the external environment is stable, innovation is dangerous. However, when the external environment is tubulent, the wisdom of the elders is largely irrelevant, and it is the creativity of the maverick that suddenly becomes valuable. Rogers' adaptation curve explains that the 'innovators' are often outsiders, people with a willingness to operate outside of convention.

    Discourse analysis within hierarchy is informative. Since resources come from above, more attention is paid there. People tend to ask upward and tell downward, a pattern of behaviour that prevents new ideas from reaching the top. These patterns of discourse tend to perpetuate the conservatism of organizations. They occur unconsciously even within those organizations that would claim to be innovative.

    As my doctoral research showed, those who gravitate to positions of leadership tend to be driven by need for power. Need for power is a recognized inhibitor of creativity.
    • dan pitkin
    • business & tech advisor, NIST MEP
    Innovation usually disturbs the power relationships in an organization, so management can either enable or stifle innovation based upon its willingness to trust their people, take risks and share accountability for outcomes, whether success or failure.
    • Mahantappa Patil
    • Engineer, SW company
    Nowadays, most of the organizations need to make a quick buck to show their investors that they are very profitable. It seems that management is inversely proportional to the concept of innovation. If they are being tracked for every Quarter-on-Quarter results, how can you expect management to take the brave step in investing in innovation and wait for years or maybe decades to reap the benefits, provided they are successful....
    • Anonymous
    Companies cannot mandate and confine innovative ideas to just the areas in which they work. To be a truly innovative organization, all development teams and product managers must be willing to consider ideas from outside their four walls.

    Companies need a way to accept ideas from across their organization (as well as a willingness) -- that fresh set of eyes from another area of the organization might come up with the gamechanger that could set their company apart from the competition.

    The periodical ComputerWorld recently published a list of the Top 100 Innovative CIOs -- it would be interesting to get their perspective on this subject.
    • Col. Surendra S. Arya (Retd.)
    • Mentor, Perspectives Unlimited
    I have personally come to a conclusion that there is a growing tendency to restrict applying innovation to technology.

    Innovation is a thought process, reflecting our individual and collective attitude/ will towards managing things in four distinct dimensions:physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Its is also an inclusive process to hold together hapenings in the realim of human, living and the non-living world.

    Since humans have taken upon themselves the Godly responsibility of governance of the universe, management (leadership) plays a critical role of allowing required resources and ensuring remaining focused on innovative methodologies for collective good!

    As the pace of change in any of the four dimensions mensioned above has gone hyper, responsible management (leadership) is the only agency in any form of organization that stakeholders remain engaged and awake (innovative) for a holistic good.

    Commercial organizations focused on maximizing profits at any cost will be a small and very poor example of pursuing innovation.
    • Richard A. Eckel
    • President, Systems Synergy, Inc.
    Actually - I hear two questions coming from the senior manager group:
    1) How does senior management decide whether they should take advantage of creative assets/opportunities in their organization?
    2) How do they utilize the opportunity of highly creative assets without overly disrupting stable profit centers?

    The first is relatively simple for seasoned manager because they should be highly tuned to organizational mission balance; operations vs. development. Production lines and supply chain type organizations would not be expected to nurture creative capability, as employees with creative talent would be bored by the predictability of the assignments. An engineering organization, on the other hand, is an ideal place to nurture the creative process (with a good dose of business reality; no profit - no value) with a constant flow of new challenges. Point being that people can be monetized by adroit placement into assignments that exploit an individual's personalities to the company's advantage. Indeed, inappropriate assignment can lead to an individual becoming a liability (but that's a discussion for another day).

    The second question can take several lessons from the first response. The unstated corollary: in the absence of a productive outlet, creative energy becomes merely disruptive. Extending this thought will lead to a more actionable conclusion that a manager unwilling to apply/release creative energy in an innovative and problem oriented business environment is not simply disruptive, but destructive.

    Senior management must create the culture of tolerance within the entire enterprise that fosters and nurtures creativity while maintaining profitable sustaining operations. This "tolerance" is an investment in internal opportunities presented by latent talents of human resources. Without some form of investment in new (hopefully high margin) products or processes, the organization becomes a "one trick pony" whose days are numbered by the lifespan of its core product or market; contrast Kodak's decline to GE's growth. Internal development is a high risk/return investment opportunity that enlightened senior management must consider when an enterprise is growth oriented. All too often, technology buyouts become the expedient alternative to management's (in)ability to develop a growth oriented enterprise due to an ill nurtured creative process. Because of financial cycles, and the artificial timescales they inflict on a business/product cycle, senior managemen
    t's tolerance can be significantly constrained and even eliminated in pursuit of fiscal targets, not to mention personal enrichment. Short cycle innovation is rarely impacted by fiscal cycles, but long cycle innovation is disabled by the conflict between results uncertainty and fiscal reporting. Any auto manufacturer, pharmaceutical, or integrated circuit manufacturer will lament forces criticizing non-performing expenditures in the balance sheet that will not be realized for many years.

    In small and medium enterprises, tolerance can take the form of independent research or consultative time allowances that enable ideas to be fully formed into presentable project opportunities. Control can be in the form of limits on the organizational time allotted to research with a "cap and trade" function to allow redistribution of enterprise budgeted creative expenditures between organizations. Large enterprises have the luxury of distinct divisions dedicated to the pursuit and evaluation of creative product and production concepts. Opportunity for talented individuals to rotate through or associate themselves with those divisions provides the personal outlet for creative individuals, as well as an innovation collection point for the enterprise.

    Bodies of problem solvers tend to work better than individuals, especially when well coached. This is because individuals have a tendency to lose focus due to self-distraction and assumptive inclusions. In a well managed creative team, assumptions can be tested and focus restored with a mutually supportive critical thinking approach to problem solving. It is very easy for management to fall into the "ambition" trap where they simply place a bunch of creative people in a room and demand invention. But invention mills are more successful in an organization that has a culture of solving problems than one that is very good at project management, which is reasonable when one considers that problems are poorly defined solutions seeking clarity (vision), while a project is a fully defined solution seeking implementation (realization); two very different skill set requirements.

    Shrewd management can take a metaphorical page from horticulturalists who transform a plant through many stages of cross pollination, seeding, germination, culling, cultivation, and finally harvest. Each stage in the lifecycle of the creative/development process requires specific management behavior in order to maintain the viability of the opportunity through to final benefit. Point is that there is no single management practice that is effective across the entire lifecycle. Successful management requires both awareness to recognize the lifecycle state of an idea and flexibility to support the needs of that creative process.
    • Pat Vesay
    • Project & Research Manager, Standard Textile
    Management as a corporate entity is responsible for enacting the strategic business plan. The best thing corporate management can do to foster the elusive 'innovation,' is to ensure that individual managers are open to change, to agree that a lack of change catalysts is dangerous to long term growth, and to understand how to plant the seeds of change and give them room to grow without excessive pruning.

    Innovation can come in two forms: 1) Novel Invention, or 2) Creative Resourcefulness. A quick review of the patent database, and the >90% of those patents that sit idle, will show the innovation most companies need is not more patents, but more people who can find new uses for what they already have. If corporate managers can motivate an individual, or team, to think about problems from different angles (don't think outside the box, rethink the box itself), to find scenarios that can be used as launch points for creative discussion and thought (ex. take a product or market scenario and remove something considered a vital component today and ask them to replace the function), the cycle can begin with positive corporate influence.

    If companies align their management hiring and training practices to incorporate dynamic personalities, and support those managers to create the environment that encourages creative resourcefulness, they will find innovation to be something more than just a buzzword in a brochure.
    • Cordy Swope
    • IDEO
    Having had the privilege of practicing innovation across a wide spectrum of industries and with representatives from various levels within organizations, it would seem that like most fields of endeavor, management is likely not some monolithic entity that fosters, or stifles, creativity.

    There are great managers of innovation - those who are open, collaborative and respectful of the risks involved, and can navigate their organizations through those risks. There are also those who struggle with the basic premises of innovation, and who might be more comfortable with a different strategy. Most managers I know and work with are under unrelenting pressure to deliver consistent quarterly growth and shareholder value. The practice of innovation (if it can be called that) requires putting those pressures aside momentarily usually in order to understand what is deeply relevant to paying customers, and to then create something compelling from that understanding. When done well, growth and revenue are simple by-products of this approach. Longer-term benefits can also include things like a significant increase in brand value and/or whole new opportunities for growth into new areas. Some organizations have the courage, appetite and resources to take this step. Others still struggle with it.

    Finally I wonder if perhaps semantically the word "growth" is problematic here. While "growth" has taken on a meaning of "increased value", we should not forget that real growth in any form, is invariably accompanied - albeit temporarily - by some form of pain.
    • Debbe Kennedy
    • Founder, President and CEO, Global Dialogue Center and Leadership Solutions Companies
    I do think managers have a vital role in innovation - a very different role now perhaps with a whole new set of qualities that need to be practiced and mastered to effectively work across the world or across the street, to generate innovation on many fronts, big and small.

    The second question asked: "is it more productive to explore ways of providing incentives to the innovators of the world, largely outside organizations ... et al - This is a great idea, but this seems like a very limited way to look at the broad range of innovations needed in organizations of every kind and suggests a very limited way of looking at who we consider "the innovators."

    Many of these trendy, mainly market-focused ideas by themselves have not led to the stability needed in the marketplaces, workplaces, or communities throughout the world. Look around. We have to ask ourselves, will these kinds of often "short term" solutions bring about the long-term business and societal growth, sustainability, and change we hold in our hands as this generation of leaders? How about going for transforming our current practice of management into what we truly NEED? Just in these comments we see we have a wealth of knowledge from which to draw.

    In over a decade of study and practice independently, and in collaboration with futurist, Joel A. Barker, known for his landmark work on paradigms, we continue to learn and confirm that diversity of people, ideas, and differences of many kinds drive innovation. Diversity is the fuel of the engine of growth and generates new wealth of many kinds.

    So, what changes are needed to allow managers, particularly in larger organizations, to add value to the creative process and reap the benefits of our diverse world?

    We need to take what we know and use it creatively as a catalyst for fundamentally changing the rules of how we think, operate, and lead in an ever-increasingly diverse world, so we can become masters at putting our differences to work. This requires setting new priorities for organizations; new conscious behaviors and awareness of people and their differences; expanding everything we know about communicating with one another; and building in new kinds of measurements for success so that our innovations end up with a win, win, win - I win, you win, the world wins.
    • Anonymous
    Depends upon how we define management in large organizations. Is it an art or a science? If science, then innovation can be managed. If it is an art, creativity should be un-managed.

    Given the fact that contemporary businesses focus more on the stock exchange numbers, the management as being practiced today is more of a science than an art.

    All the innovation that is either fostered by enterprising managers or thrust upon by ordinary managers, is more directed towards "the known".

    The question in this context can be framed as how to manage innovation to a "known"? Answer then is, since, path towards the "known" is half-traveled, all that is required is to re-visit and assimilate existing knowledge accumulated along the path traveled thus far and make adjustments to the "identified characteristics" along this traveled path.

    In other words, the basic role of management should move from managing people to managing knowledge.

    This means an enterprising manager's role is to provide right tools and establish organizational processes to make this knowledge available to the team(/s) innovating the "known".

    In short, the manager's role should translate into a knowledge facilitator.

    Eventually, sometime down the line, if the organizational processes are established in such a way that there is a seamless exchange of knowledge without any human facilitation, the very role of a manager should be grand fathered. In other words, there should be no visible or imaginary line of role definitions that divide organizational teams on who owns the means of production.
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited
    At the outset, Management has to positively accept that the world is at the present stage of evolution due to various improvements brought about from time to time.This applies to our organisation as well as our predecessors felt seriously that for upward growth the current approach to technical, administrative and human resource development systems and procedures would need ongoing review for improvement keeping in view the environmental and competitive needs arising in the short as also the long term. Business philosophy of "profit with growth" sustains only if each member of the organisation, CEO downwards, considers it his/her bounden duty to seriously strive to develop attitudes to constantly think on how the overall performance can improve. Each has to dream big as ideas do move the world. And these ideas can and need to be innovative.

    Each and every innovative effort must be acknowledged and appreciated by the leadership and the reaction should be supportive. The top management needs to go into each initiative in depth and even if the suggestion as it is cannot be accepted for implementation, it might be improved upon after further discussions. If not possible to do so, the rejection must be conveyed in a manner not to hit and thwart cotinued efforts by the concerned initiator. The message that management appreciate all such endeavours should flow across the organisation.

    An organisation which is focused only on increasing profits by diverting all energies towards improving quantitative results only is bound to relegate qualitative improvements to the background. In course of time, this is going to lead to doom as the competitors' innovations would give them a definite edge leading to better appreciation and acceptance by customers, clients and patrons.

    In my view "innovate or perish" should be one of the key themes and mantra of the organisational vision and this needs to be zealously pursued.
    • Mohammad Razipour
    • Marketing & Business Development, Kayson Co.
    As opposed to creativity which requires thinking,innovation requires action.Innovation is a continuoius process which is undertaken by a team rather than an indivitual,however each indivitual has his/her significant contribution.An employee can be active ,or proactive in a certain atmosphere and therefore contribute to the team,or can decide to be passive and refrain from contibution.Human mind has unlimited power and knows no frontier when it comes to imagination.

    I believe the biggest challenge of the next generation of managers will be how to properly motivate indivituals to integrate in teams to effectively use their innovative tallents.
    • Nari Kannan
    • CEO, Ajira Technologies, Inc.
    Management's role is to clearly define what innovation is in the context of everbody's job in the company, encourage it actively and project manage it to fruition so that it makes money for the company.

    Defining innovation needs to be in the context of anyone's job in the company - it's not just coming up with the next "iPod" or 'iPhone" alone. A janitor can innovate less use of cleaners or suggest a new greener way of doing things. A division head can with a team come up with the next iPod or iPhone innovation of the company. Both are valuable innovations.

    Management's next role is to encourage innovation actively within the company. Here's where the top management and the board isolate employees from the short term, quarter to quarter focus on the profits and share price and make sure that longer term innovations are as much investments and not some buzzword. 3M, Xerox PARC are all good examples.

    The last part is seeing to it that innovations make money for the company. A lot of great innovators like Xerox PARC watched helplessly as other companies like Apple cashed in on their innovations since they did not know how to capitalize on their own innovations. This is also the reason for many frustrated executives and personnel from large companies do their own startups and make oodles of money when their ideas do not find a way of making money for their own company. This can be explicit or even covertly done within the company. Audi did not like their VW division when someone suggested that they revive the old VW Bug. The CEO set up a skunkworks secret project within Audi to start making the VW bug and it ended up making tonnes of money for the company in the mid 90's!
    • Anonymous
    Innovation and management sound as diametrically opposed as freedom and slavery. Sorry to be so cynical but from my vantage point, the staff have ample opportunities to be creative and innovative. Management is more like the machinery that keeps the staff's innovation ticking over.

    I would venture to say, however, that without the machinery of management, innovation and creativity would not be able to thrive as well, and invariably, the bottom line would be affected.
    • Anonymous
    May I ask, how are you defining "Innovation"? Thanks.
    • Paula Thornton
    • Experience Design Strategist
    Innovation is the result of embracing and exercising the principles of Design Thinking (intentionally or not). It cannot be pursued, it can only be facilitated and/or enabled. Most business models and operating styles introduce high barriers for design thinking.

    Two books to understand this conundrum: "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" and "the myths of innovation". This is where the conversation needs to start...
    • Timothy McInerney
    • Consultant & Interim Manager, New York
    Management should be very involved in innovation since they "see" the market, competition, etc. every day. Problem is too many managers aren't very creative thinkers. In that case, a staffer or outside consultant needs to do the brainstorming. Every idea needs to be thoroughly researched and piloted before broad roll-out to avoid disasters. Boards should not be involved much at all, except to authorize the process.
    • Bob Jacobson
    • Principal, Bluefire Consulting
    Management may champion innovation and lend its support to innovation's initiatives, but it cannot guarantee the success of these initiatives. Not all innovation processes produce positive results, even if well executed. What management can absolutely do, however, is prevent or defeat innovation by imposing performance strictures that favor the status quo. Much of what we know about innovation in the workplace is anecdotal at best. My experience working with small and large firms uniformly is that successful innovation depends on charismatic leaders -- not executives, but senior managers -- who are (a) passionate about the mission and able to light others' intellectual fires; (b) capable of communicating their visions and empowering others to share in them, so as to appreciate their value; and (c) exceptionally knowledgeable and diplomatic managers who can transform good ideas into practical products, services, and procedures.

    Is this a surprise to anyone? Perhaps what's surprising, if anything, is how much labor is expended trying to systematize innovation when it is the ability to innovate that deserves our attention. Investing in proven innovators is a more reliable road to continuous and productive innovation, business renovation, and competitive success. Innovation is a talent more than a skill. Identifying and supporting successful innovators is management's essential responsibility.
    • Janice Maffei
    • Partner, VisionFirst
    If they're ready to step up to the challenge, managers can help facilitate innovation. Here's how:

    1. FRAME THE BUSINESS CHALLENGES & ENCOURAGE IDEAS- clearly communicate about the opportunity, invite ithinking, listen, and experiment with what you learn. Give employees entrepreneurial latitude to organize teams/identify resources needed to test an idea out.

    2. DEMONSTRATE A TOLERANCE FOR FAILURE AND AN APPETITE FOR LEARNING - A good number of experiments will not pay off, that's a given. How will you transform disappointments into insights, encouraging smarter tries the next time through? The history books are filled with failed experiments reframed into viable products. Build a discipline around learning and sharing info widely.

    3. CULTIVATE CREATIVE THINKING - Are the most highly rewarded people in your organization the people with ideas or the idea deflaters? Years back, Teresa Amabile's research (HBS) demonstrated the disproportionate rewarding of the "gotcha" personality. Be sure you're sending messages that thinking is encouraged and that challenging the status quo is healthy, not an act of sabotage. Provide cover for your original thinkers and help them advance their ideas by partnering them with other talent that can incubate and sell the idea into the culture.
    • Dr. K.S. Ramachandra
    • General Manager, Star Orechem International Ltd
    To see "innovation" happening in any organization I recommend the following based on my readings on Innovation and experience.

    1. It is often quoted" necessity is the mother of invention" and I say the same is true for innovation. The organization( the top management) must ensure that the employees always feel strongly that the management is expecting better and more desirable results in quality, output and novelty in products and processes and at no point of time the management should give a hint of its total satisfaction and complacency on status-quo. Always a wanting situation should be prevailing .One may say its all easier said than done. But that is where the challenge for the top management to be innovative. Many have been successful in doing this ( eg. Motorala, Merck, 3M etc)
    2. I draw a leaf out of Dr.Edward Deming's 14 princilpes to bring home my point on innovation; He says "Remove fear from every employee ",. This a truly and a very tough organisation cultural issue.Any organisation in attempting to achieve this may have to thoroughly overhaul its personnel polices, compensation and reward system, and most importantly change of senior and middle manager's mindset.This is also a challenging and time consuming exercise but not formidable if the top management is committed. There are a number of examples of companies to emulate.

    3. Making known the organisation's intent to be innovative in products, processes and services to all people in the organisation. This can be done by effective use various communication mechanisms. In most of the organisations the employees only know that the top management wants them do only what they are assigned to do and no new ideas are acceptable. Then why to think creatively and generate new ideas?. To eliminate this aberration, top management should make it known loudly to all employees that it welcomes all ideas and suggestions even if it does not pertain to its present products/ business. Such ideas may be pooled and protected for future eeds of the organization (qv. the case of digital electronic watch first proposed by a Swiss watch co and trashed by the top management only to realize later its blunder).

    4.After addressing the above issues, the top management should provide some knowledge and tools of processes of creativity and innovation and how to do them structurally using various methods, like TRIZ, TOC, Six Sigma, TOC, Lean , brainstorming TQM , QFD etc. This has to be meticulously planed and executed. There anre a pelthora of highly successful oganizations, consultancies to help organisations to do what is said.

    5. The top management should also make it known known to all employes that the "innovation process " is open to all employees to be a part and it is not restricted to its R&D /project functions. Now-a days organizations are even opening up their innovation process for the public at large to participate.

    6. From time to time update/ communicate all the employees on emerging state of the art products, processes and competition in the existing business and new methods on creativity and innovation processes being practiced elsewhere. And, inform what the top-management wants to achieve at this juncture.

    7. The top-management should constitute a responsible team to establish, implement and monitor the above actions. The team must invariably have a few members from external agency/ies with specific responsibilities to provide necessary guidence and feedback to top management as the team continues to work. At every stage the top management must question the team justify every method/process they are designing to deploy "innovation" and wet it through the external agency/consultant.
    • S. K. Kotwani
    • Asst. Vice President - IT, IndusINd Bank Ltd.
    Invention and creativity relates more to R & D functions. Depending upon the type of industry, managements contributes fully by setting up labs and providing resources.

    Innovation however relates to on the job function where contribution from all and sundry needs to be recognised by the management. This normally results in ease of processes and helps in overall growth of the organisation. Management, if really concerned, is expected to provide incentives since it carries total responsibility to encourage innovation.

    Innovation is more of a characterstic behaviour. If not recognised and encouraged may lower the morale and managements need to be sensitive in order to reduce attrition rate.
    • Arsalan Haneef
    • Consultant, ADB
    Innovation grows from within and more often follow bottom-up than top-down direction. This is logical. Top management is distracted by macro issues like maximizing shareholder wealth and often looks for short-cuts to realize this goal. The concept of front line leadership has gained popularity because innovative potential of an organization largely lies at that level. Fronline comprises people who oversee the processes resulting in the outputs (services or goods) directlry. They have a better sense of the way various phyical inputs interplay with human inputs to produce goods or services. A motivated frontline leadership can quickly discover the problem and alternative soltutions for its redress. However, whether the frontline contributes to additional value creation depends on the importance the top management attaches to doing different things and doing the same things differently. A culture that encourages bottom-up flows of innovative ideas and leverages such ideas for a greater value creation tends to promote innovation. I think every frontline manager tends to have a potential for some creativty. How this potential translates into value creation for organization depends on organizational culture. The upcoming debate should give the organizational culture the importance it deserves.
    • Abhijit
    • student, SPJIMR
    There are mainly four types of organisation
    1. Service based low volatility - i.e auditing firms, taxation firms etc.
    2. Service based high volatility - i.e. consulting firms, telecom marketing etc.
    3. Product based low volatility - i.e. traditional engineering firms into heavy engineering business.
    4. Product based high volatility - High end electronics, computers etc.

    The degree of innovation lies in the type of organisation described above.
    Companies who are in direct contact with customers have to maintain high degree of innovation and be on their toes.

    Where as product based companies with low volatility cannot innovate much as the product remains static for years.

    However innovation is always possible (whatever be the type of organisation) and depends upon the degree of freedom provided by management. Given the freedom employees can aim for process innovations, which can drastically improve workplace productivity and hence benefit the customer.
    • Narayanan
    • Service manager
    I think management's role is more macro level in managing the innovation, setting a top-down vision for the company. Management also ensures that its interest in creativitiy and innovation is percolated down to all levels of people.

    Management plays a vital role in convincing the client to accept change and overlook the implementation of the same.
    • Anonymous
    Innovation is the process of creating solutions that satisfy customer's needs. Creativity is the mental process of creation - one is an organizational process, the other is an individual mental process - most people confuse the two.
    • Phil Clark
    • Clark & Associates
    Truly innovative and committed people never let management stand in the way. Either their ideas are accepted and the company benefits or are rejected and the people go on to start another company and put the old one at risk. The hubris of thinking management can stand in the way of real innovation flies in the face of history.
    • Cem Kandemir
    • Sales Manager, Coca-Cola Icecek , Turkey
    You can only innovate at the intersection of the disciplines after being empowered within a big corporation. There are plenty of factors that make a successful innovator some of which include enthusiasm, commitment, willingness to take risk, the ability to self-learn and to lead. After a new talent with this potential is employed, they will have to be empowered to succeed in an ever competitive business world.

    As a sales manager heavily involved in the process, I am fairly convinced that managers who can't see beyond just saving the day are bound to lose in the long run as the pace of the change has become unbearable for the companies that can not innovate collaboratively with the other parties in the whole sales process.
    • John Duffy
    • Enterprise Storage Architect, VT Systems
    Organizations get current revenue from current products and services, and will get future revenue from (new) future products and services.

    Most managers focus on current revenue from current products and services. That is what companies pay them to do. Wall Street's focus on "this quarter's numbers" promotes that attitude. Bills (and commissions) gotta be paid now.

    However, certain "well-known business schools" have identified that, after a product peaks (in revenue terms), revenues from that product will decline over time. That revenue fall-off will need to be replaced by revenues from new products, either acquired or developed.

    Acquiring new revenue streams is many times seen as "easier" and "faster". Spend some money now, and get instant proven revenue now. The only uncertainty is whether the new revenue will meet volume expectations.

    Innovating, or developing new revenue streams, is seen as requiring commitment over time. Few managers want to spend the years it takes to do that. (They want the promotion now.) Organizations do not pay managers to manage innovation, and do not pay employees to innovate.

    Many people in all levels of organizations already have ideas about new ways to do business, or new products or services that could be offered. However, except for the pharmaceutical industry, there is no organization or slot for innovators. Current compensation schemes make it VERY clear that there is no time or interest in innovation. People do what they are paid to do. "You spent time innovating, and did not meet your MBOs. You are fired."

    Innovation is labeled as "risky", not necessary for this month's revenue".

    New products or services take a long time to germinate. Most (2 out of 3, 4 out of 5, 9 out of 10, pick a number) new ideas will not add to revenue.

    In fact, innovation is necessary to long term survival.

    Farmers understand "innovation". To a farmer, innovation is called 'seed corn'.

    NOT innovating is risky. Innovation is not necessary for this month's revenue, but it is necessary for the long-term survival of organizations. Those organizations which do NOT innovate are eating their seedcorn, and will die. Those which innovate will survive.

    Only certain people have the mindset to (1) dream up the new idea. A subset of those people can actually turn a vague idea into a product or service that customers will spend cash money to buy.

    Drug companies recognize that certain people actually do this better than others, and put these people into the groups that look for new drugs.

    Non-drug companies need to incorporate this general concept (the 'new product or new service' guys and gals) into their organization in whatever way makes sense for that organization.

    The role that managers can play is (1) recognize that new products and/or services are necessary to the future life of the company, (2) identify those people who could successfully work with ideas to convert them to real 'things', and (3) figure out job assignments that allow those 'innovators' to do both their "current business assignment', AND "work on new stuff". Managers also have to communicate with their other staff that "Billy is good at coming up with new stuff", so that the others recognize Billy's value to the organization.

    As a person who has created new service offerings for different companies, the innovator has to accept the fact that he (or she) is an innovator, that the guys and gals who are the SMEs of today view you as the challenger, that you have to essentially prove the concept yourself, and that when you bring the new concept to a certain point, you are going to have to turn it over to other people, those who like to do repetitive activities (and that you are not that person!).

    It works, if management and the innovator are on the same page.

    It fails, if direct management does not see the value in innovation.

    John Duffy
    Innovator (always!), and
    (currently) Enterprise Storage Architect
    VT Systems