All the articles in this latest post from HBS are worth reading. Some excerpts below and some "open thinking" that ran through my mind as I read through the stories (more random thoughts, reactions and ideas):
Sharpening Your Skills: Managing Innovation — HBS Working Knowledge
Sharpening Your Skills dives into the HBS Working Knowledge archives to bring together articles on ways to improve your business skills.
Questions to be answered:
- Can innovation and creativity be managed?
- Where do creative ideas come from?
- Can I take advantage of disruption?
- Where can I find innovative solutions?
High Note: Managing the Medici String Quartet
I've always equated "great collaboration" as the result of the "great choreography" that occurs when a team finds its rhythm - high performing teams have a myriad of social contracts between themselves where actions and behaviors are undertaken without reliance on "command and control" mechanisms. As I read through this article, I was linking these concepts to some of the organization issues associated with Enterprise 2.0 and the importance of fostering emergence vs. stewards who may try to reign things in...
During the course, we put together a panel called Stewards versus Creators. Managers often have steward mentalities. They try to be responsible in their expenditure of funds, trying not to invest a dollar if it won't earn more than a dollar back. ... Managing a golden goose individual is an increasingly common issue. Industrial Revolution thinking tries to get around it by trying to extract expertise from individuals and systematize it; the golden goose doesn't exist because everybody is viewed as just a cog in a machine. But when we talk about innovative performance, we can't talk about systematization in the traditional sense because systematization implies producing consistent outcome. I prefer to believe that innovation is about producing inconsistency of outcome, and valuable inconsistency at that. ... As HBS professor Richard Nolan and I wrote earlier this year in the MIT Sloan Management Review, if the steward mentality is obsessed with a breakeven point, a point of diminishing returns, the creator types don't know where that point is and don't care. The idea of "good enough" isn't something they're terribly interested in. As a business, you can't run flat out all the time, but it's important for innovative businesses to have some of that energy inside.
How Kayak Users Built a New Industry
I love the concept of "dominant design" - are we reaching that with collaborative workspaces - discussion forums, group calendar, document library, et. al. So is SharePoint a reflection of that dominant design? And it so, is that why the dominant design is having problems incorporating new social capabilities - are vendors delivering dominant designs based on collaboration requirements circa 2000-2003 struggling to protect revenue streams and perhaps stifle innovation from smaller vendors? Or being very careful/pragmatic about which innovative vendors that elect to partner with to add capabilities missing in the dominant design? Intriguing... what does this mean for internal IT groups - are they preserving an existing dominant design and therefore much more hesitant to look at different computing models or smaller vendors that while innovative, threaten existing assumptions - going with the dominant design is just more politically correct than chancing a career limiting move by going against the grain and adopting new architectures from emerging vendors... no clear right or wrong but identifying the transitions onto and off of dominant designs - we tend not to handle these inflection points well...
A dominant design is a standard architecture for a product system that almost all firms in an industry adhere to. For example, the dominant design in automobiles today has a gasoline engine, four wheels with rubber tires, a steering wheel, a closed body, and automatic transmission. Designers may change the attributes of automobiles, but it's considered very radical to depart from these standards. ... Bill Abernathy of HBS and Jim Utterback of MIT defined dominant designs back in the 1970s. They went on to theorize that the nature of innovation and competition changes after a dominant design emerges. Specifically, they said, before a dominant design emerges, there will be lots of product innovation carried out by many small firms. Once the dominant design is established, however, the focus of innovative effort will switch to cost reduction and process improvements. Cost-reducing process innovations benefit large firms most; hence the emergence of a dominant design will trigger an industry shakeout and consolidation.
Jumpstarting Innovation: Using Disruption to Your Advantage
Similar thoughts to the above story. Are emerging Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 companies trying to disrupt the status quo by building social media platforms that compete with established vendors whose existing "dominant designs" are not as adaptable to newer collaboration, community and social networking patterns? If corporate IT groups lack change management disciplines and processes to address echnology disruption - then does that partially explain the reluctance to "look outside the tunnel" at consumer market trends and emerging social computing technologies?
But established companies often approach innovation and disruption much differently. Having worked hard to align strategy and organization to support the current business, they develop tunnel vision, encouraging employees, customers, suppliers, and partners to work together to deliver today's business results. Even when disruptive opportunities are identified, tightly aligned organizations, business models, and industry relationships make it tough to respond quickly and effectively. As a result, executives in established firms often frame disruption as a threat. When they see changes happening, they work to defend their existing business model and ask, "How can I insulate against these disruptive threats and preserve my current business model?"
Open Source Science: A New Model for Innovation
How many walled gardens (the ones that wrongly exist) do we need to break down in order to achieve greater levels of transparency within organizations to gain some of the benefits alluded to in this article... so many breakthroughs are the result of catalyzing cultural dynamics more so than technology...
Innovations happen at the intersection of disciplines. People have talked about that a lot and I think we're providing some systematic evidence now with this study. ... We see this in many different places. The insight is that what you want to do is open up your problem to other people—not just to serendipity, but in some systematic way. ... What we don't know is whether some firms may be large enough by themselves to already have the requisite variety and heterogeneity inside the firm. Could they first start by broadcasting problems inside? ... There are always issues around managerial incentives, silos, and so forth, but certainly by the way we see open source communities and InnoCentive work, in fact, by broadcasting a problem you can actually attract a lot of people. And what's also important to note is that the problem solving being done is not "We'll spend five years coming up with a solution." Most people take knowledge and information from their back pockets and transfer it to the problem at hand. In our study the average time spent by successful solvers was two weeks, so that's fairly little in the scheme of things.