Jennifer B. Davis

"Managing and innovation did not always fit comfortably together. That's not surprising. Managers are people who like order. They like forecasts to come out as planned. In fact, managers are often judged on how much order they produce. Innovation, on the other hand, is often a disorderly process. Many times, perhaps most times, innovation does not turn out as planned. As a result, there is tension between managers and innovation."
-- Attributed to Lewis Lehro, about the first years at 3M


So, how do leaders foster an environment of innovation, while still maintaining the predictability that may be required from the investment community and other stakeholders? Robert Park, a business analyst with Telus, suggests the solution is iteration. Small steps allow you to accurately scope work, "change with political winds when necessary," and make "little breakthroughs." This approach requires a high degree of flexibility and "small visions" instead of a single "grand vision." This is in contrast to what many claim as the key to successful innovation projects: a strong leader and a clear, shared purpose. What has your experience been?

1 Response
  1. Michael Wagner Says:

    This subject appears daily for me in my work.

    The discomfort between management and innovation never goes away.

    Glad to see you extending this conversation. It's helpful to see your take on the subject.

    Small steps makes sense. But as you note it still requires "a hight degree of flexibility" and that in itself rubs against the desire for control and predictability.

    I usually argue for creating "innovation space" within a client's organization. The space is a time and place where the ideation process can be worked out. Followed by identifying which ideas are worth pursuing as innovations. This gives birth to the "small visions" you mention.

    Thanks for offering up this conversation!

    Keep creating,
    Mike