Point: Inventing new management techniques offers big paybacks.
Story: What’s more valuable than a new product or service innovation? An innovation in a management technique, said business strategy expert Gary Hamel at the Spigit Innovation Summit last week. Innovations in management techniques have far-reaching impact.
Consider Thomas Edison. He’s credited with 1093 patents, but one underlying invention is what made such a multitude of patents possible: the invention of the corporate R&D lab. Edison was the first to bring management discipline to research & development to enable a more powerful method of invention than the lone inventor of the past. Edison’s 1093 patents had less to do with technological genius and more to do with management genius: creating and managing an R&D lab that could efficiently and effectively crank out new inventions.
So, what steps can you take to innovate the management of innovation? Management is the effective control of resources to execute tasks that achieve goals. What, then, does effective management of innovation look like? Hamel talked about the need for a combination of freedom and discipline: the freedom to come up with ideas but also the discipline to find the best ideas, refine them, and channel them into something that creates value for the firm. He posed it as a paradox, which is always a clue to generative potential.
As you think about improving the management of innovation, think about the recent inventions that you can draw on. For example, in my previous post, I wrote about how social media tools support innovation processes. These tools let you invite ideas from across the whole organization and provide a way to refine, track and vote on those ideas. Other advancements, like open sourcing and open innovation (see earlier post), help you tap into almost-free resources. Furthermore, widespread adoption of smartphones changes the fundamental equation of management in terms of reach and timeliness. All these technologies support new approaches to management, especially the management of innovation.
- Take a step back from inventing and innovation to think about how to improve the management of innovation
- Ask: how can we generate new ideas more effectively with available resources? (freedom)
- Ask: how can we develop and validate new ideas more effectively with available resources? (discipline)
- Create coherent processes that balance resources between freedom and discipline
I enjoyed hearing Gary speak and having the opportunity to ask him questions. If you’d like to do the same, consider joining me at the World Business Forum October 6-7, 2009 in New York City. Gary will be one of the speakers, along with former president Bill Clinton, Jack Welch, George Lucas, Paul Krugman and others. You can see the full agenda here.