How to organise for innovation

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business teamwork competitionI wrote earlier this week about the failure of many organisations to deliver on the rhetoric they produce around innovation.  A big reason for this failure is that few organisations are actually structured to deliver innovation.  Most are structured to do the things they do, and to do them as efficiently and as profitably as possible.  That’s kinda what they’re in business for, right?

So delivering on things that deviate from this norm can often be a struggle.  The kind of thinking that makes the cash cow part of the business so effective, is often not the kind of thinking that will generate innovations for you.

There in lies the danger of course, in that this can often lead innovators to believe that the cash cow folks are the enemy and exist to get in the way of their creative thoughts and ideas.  The cash cow folks can equally look on the innovators and think they’re out to ruin them with their crazy ideas.

Such enmity is not good for innovation.  The truth is that successful innovation requires a partnership between the innovators and the cash cows.  Each bring unique skills to the party that will be required for the innovation to succeed, and as such, the innovation team should consist of a mixture of the two groups.

For instance, it’s likely that you will require a number of people who are dedicated purely to this particular project.  They will work on nothing else and will be dedicated to making the innovation work.  They will be joined on the team by people who also work in the cash cow side of the business.

Successful teams will nearly always have this mixture, but the ratios of each group will depend on the unique needs of each project.  When formulating your team however, keep in mind that the cash cow folks will be focusing on the predictable elements of the project.  The dedicated innovators will be focused on the uncertain aspects of the project.  The predictable elements in this instance are the things that the cash cow part of the business already do really well.  This will ensure that each member of the team is playing to their particular strengths.

Once the two groups have come together to form the innovation team, the partnership between them will underpin the success (or not) of the project.  This will be where the collaboration and so on that I’ve written about so often on this blog comes into play.  I’ll be talking more about the staffing of innovation teams in future blogs.

4 thoughts on “How to organise for innovation

  1. Really thought-provoking – I am a fan of John P Kotter – Management is needed to do what it does best and that is not innovation. What management can do is create another parallel structure based on influence and not positional power that is the engine room or Skunkworks. The trick is to actually want innovation to happen and reward the innovators by trialling the good ideas,, measuring them appropriately and adopting those that fly. Then talk about incentives.

  2. It's a great article, good work. I think innovation can only be lived if someone wants to break the norms and is easily driven by passion. Most of the people deviate from their objective and as a result they cannot innovate what they want to.

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