Innovation is the hot topic in many arenas: politics, economics, business and not the least, our own cultural field.
Financial Times writer Philip Delves Broughton (former and now part-time journalist, fiction writer and somewhat regretful Harvard MBA) reviews Michael Raynor’s The Innovator’s Manifesto.
The author notes leading thinking on innovation has cleaved (emphasis mine):
On one side are those who embrace the ideas of collaborative consumption and fast failure, who argue that innovators need to experiment with their potential consumers until they find a product or service that succeeds. These are the doers, the tinkerers who see innovation as a kind of performance art, to be done in full public view and modified according to the cheers and jeers of the crowd. On the other side are the strategists, those who still believe in thinking through an innovation before leaping in. Michael Raynor, a management consultant and protégé of Clay Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor, is one of the most articulate and interesting of the strategists.
Raynor writes convincingly that the current enthusiasm for “fast failure” and corporate “cultures of learning” is unrealistic. Corporate pathologies, such as “long memories, the jockeying for position, decision making by consensus”, he writes, lead to “risk aversion and incrementalism”, which make such innovation processes unworkable.
It is much more realistic for companies to strategise their way to innovation by focusing on areas where they might have a disruptive effect and designing processes and teams to exploit them. This requires a high degree of self-awareness and self-criticism.