Several thoughts on this, as someone who has worked for both large (IBM, Apple, Paramount/Viacom, AOL) companies in my past — all of whom where relatively innovative, and someone who has worked with many innovative START-UP companies in the past 20 years…
I agree with Josh that some tenets of a culture of innovation are:
- risk-taking and unconventional thinking are encouraged
- technical personnel are pushed to venture beyond their comfort zones
- leadership takes a role in shaping this “entrepreneurial” behavior with the firm
- specific corporate roles (like Chief Innovation Officer) are used to drive policy and action
- mentoring programs from senior execs to model/encourage organizational creativity
This principals mirror many that I talked about in a previous post “10 Ways Leaders Create Innovation”.
However, I may disagree with Josh on one fundamental point – it’s not just the TECHNICAL personnel that one can push, it is ALL DEPARTMENTS. There are enclaves of originality/entrepreneurship often locked up within many different parts of the organization and leadership can influence innovative/creative behavior from many different departments…but it takes very different forms in the iOrganization. I call this “functional creativity” and the idea is to unlock it in several areas – not just technical/product sides of the business. For example:
- Marketing can be very innovative in the way it marks target markets and draws in new customers
- Sales can become very creative in the way it sells/distributes to products
- R&D can innovate in product, design, and “customer development” (how it includes the customer in its design process
- HR can be innovative in the way it sets the culture (building upon the example leaders are setting)
- Production/Operations can be creative in how it reduces expenses and re-engineers core “activities”
- and…the entire organization can be innovative in the way it develops new business models (as a team)
I call a firm that has 3 or more of these innovation pockets moving at once The iOrganization (The Innovative Organization). The typical iOrganization has 3 overall elements combined into one: (a) the leadership to set an example of how to be creative in a corporate setting , (b) the culture to match the leaders’ examples – one that embraces change, flexibility and risk-taking, and (c) surrounded by the right environment — leading to a the bias for creative action.
In the next 5 years, I believe that adopting an iOrganiztion mentality and innovation as a “survival” strategy and not just a growth strategy for firms, as Josh points out in his article. And the senior team (particularly the CEO) have to exude the qualities that they want their iOrganization to follow – creative behavior can be taught and caught.
In a recent email exchange with author Robert Brands (a new book on corporate innovation called “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival”), we both concurred that this is where the iOrganization typically falls short – the leadership has to set the example, and has to do it in concrete and visible ways.
I’d like to hear others’ thought on this and real world examples – please comment on this blog post, or tweet me at