What are the secrets of companies that manage to bring disruptive innovation to market?
I often argue that you cannot plan for disruptive or breakthrough innovation, but you can definitely create the right framework and conditions for this to happen. But what if there is some secret sauce that can inspire others? What would this look like?
I do not have the answer for this so in this post, I would like to start a discussion aimed at finding some common denominators for bringing disruptive or breakthrough innovation to market.
Develop arms-length structures:
You cannot create disruptive innovation within the current organization. You need to protect your projects from the bureaucracy and “we do as we always do” mentality of the big organization just as you do not want rebels with a “we do not accept the status quo” mindset disrupting the big organization which in the end of the day pays the bills.
Get executives out of the way and provide autonomy:
Many executives and top managers do not know much about innovation let alone disruptive innovation. So get out of the way! They should hire program managers that make them feel a bit uncomfortable because they are definitely out of their comfort zone here. Let the program managers do what the see fit in the context of the organization and the industry.
Hire proven innovators as program managers:
I am often amazed by the importance of just one person when I look back at the successful implementation of open or disruptive innovation programs at large companies. One thing that stands out here is that these people have fought in the trenches themselves and they really know the importance of stakeholder management.
A great example is Mark Randall, who is running a disruptive innovation program at Adobe to lead such programs. I really like how Mark labels himself as a disruptive influence. You need a (positive) disruptive influence to succeed with such programs.
Although this is not the greatest presentation, I recently heard from Mark on the Adobe program, you could still find some good insights here: How to Boost Creativity.
Once you have the right people on board, you need to let them do what they do best. Don’t micromanage them!
Match the right people with the right ideas:
Once you have the right captain onboard, you also need to identify and develop the right kind of people having the mindset and skills needed to take a project through the different phases of innovation (discovery – incubation – acceleration). If you fail to find the right people and staff the projects with what you got at hand, I am pretty sure you will fail.
Here I suggest that you build a pool of people who can be ready for the right idea before you even have the ideas. Keep them idle with other projects (where they add value with their skills and mindset) but have them stand by for the right project. This is a needed investment if you really want to pursue disruptive innovation.
If you still do not have the right people for the idea, hire someone from the outside.
Be careful when copying others:
It is tempting to “just” copy ideas and programs such as Google’s 20% time or Apple’s approach to innovation. Be careful!
My starters… What are your ideas and input for creating a setup and culture that drives more disruptive innovation projects within big companies?
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