Some of the essential components are. Chunky problems. Fresh principles. Unorthodox thinking. Wisdom from the fringe. These multipliers of human creativity are as pivotal to management innovation as they are to every other kind of innovation. The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity for innovation. Nearly 80 years ago, General Motors invented the divisionalized organization structure in response to a seemingly intractable problem: how to bring order to the sprawling family of companies that had been assembled by William C. Sloan, Jr.
Thanks to this management innovation, GM was able to take advantage of its scale and scope. It takes fortitude and perseverance, as well as imagination, to solve big problems. These qualities are most abundant when a problem is not only important but also inspiring. Frederick Winslow Taylor, arguably the most important management innovator of the twentieth century, is usually portrayed as a hard-nosed engineer, intent on mechanizing work and pushing employees to the max.
Awkward, inefficient, or ill-directed movements of men, however, leave nothing visible or tangible behind them. Their appreciation calls for an act of memory, an effort of the imagination. And for this reason, even though our daily loss from this source is greater than from our waste of material things, the one has stirred us deeply, while the other has moved us but little. To maximize the chances of a management breakthrough, you need to start with a problem that is both consequential and soul stirring.
First, what are the tough trade-offs that your company never seems to get right? Management innovation is often driven by the desire to transcend such trade-offs, which can appear to be irreconcilable. Open source development, for example, encompasses two antithetical ideas: radical decentralization and disciplined, large-scale project management. Maybe you believe that your organization has become less and less agile as it has pursued the advantages of size and scale.
Second, what are big organizations bad at? This question should produce a long list of incompetencies. Third, what are the emerging challenges the future has in store for your company? Try to imagine them: An ever-accelerating pace of change. Rapidly escalating customer power. Near instant commoditization of products and services. Ultra-low-cost competitors. A new generation of consumers that is hype resistant and deeply cynical about big business.
These discontinuities will demand management innovation as well as business model innovation. Any problem that is pervasive, persistent, or unprecedented is unlikely to be solved with hand-me-down principles. More recently, scientists eager to understand the subatomic world have been forced to abandon the certainties of Newtonian physics for the more ambiguous principles of quantum mechanics.
That was certainly true for Visa. The ensuing chaos threatened the viability of the fledgling business. Modern management practice is based on a set of principles whose origins date back a century or more: specialization, standardization, planning and control, hierarchy, and the primacy of extrinsic rewards. Generations of managers have mined these principles for competitive advantage, and they have much to show for their efforts.
- The Bourbon Kings of France.
- The Heart of Innovation: Creative Thinking Archives.
- Rustlers of West Fork.
- Home Wireless Networking in a Snap (Sams Teach Yourself);
- Morality : Perceptions & Perspectives.
But after decades of digging, the chance of discovering a gleaming nugget of new management wisdom in these well-explored caverns is remote. Your challenge is to uncover unconventional principles that open up new seams of management innovation. And what is it that imbues those exemplars with their enviable qualities?
Seeking anonymity and privacy
You know that in a world of accelerating change, continuous strategic renewal is the only insurance against irrelevance. Specialization, for all its benefits, limits the kind of cross-boundary learning that generates breakthrough ideas. The quest for greater standardization often leads to an unhealthy affection for conformance; the new and the wacky are seen as dangerous deviations from the norm.