I found three interesting posts on innovation a while back via the Column Two blog. They’re from a blog called the Berkun Blog on management, design, and automation, written by Scott Berkun, public speaker and consultant, O’Reilly author, and former Microsoft employee.
Scott appears to be nearing completion on a book on innovation. The second post is about why innovation efforts fail. The third is about questioning VPs of innovation (something I’d love to do as I’m genetically allergic to the concept).
The bonus is a great post entitled “Ten Things VPs Never Say” which I believe is a true classic. (And lest the point not be clear, a more precise title would be “Ten Things VPs Never Say, But Should.”)
I’ve always been interested in innovation both because I believe in creative solutions to problems and because Silicon Valley is such an innovation hotbed. Given my Silicon Valley bias, my favorite article on the subject is “Bringing Silicon Valley Inside” by Gary Hamel. Hamel’s arguments are similar to Berkun’s.
For example, my favorite Hamel argument is that in most companies it takes one “no” to kill an idea. In Silicon Valley, it takes one “yes” to enable it. The business plans of virtually all leading Silicon Valley companies were rejected by numerous venture capitalists.
Crispin Read and I fought mightily to get Business Objects to implement the Hamel innovation model; we wanted to empower each e-staff member with small amounts internal venture funding to back various ideas from people inside the company. That way one yes could enable an idea. Sadly, we never succeeded in getting the company to try it.
Interestingly, Crispin and I now both work at venture-backed startups. And, as far as I know, Business Objects’ last VP of innovation (or equivalent) left the company to do guess what? Innovate. He was Nick Kellet, and he quit his job to pursue his new vision: GiftTRAP. (And I note humbly that Nick thanks for me showing him a whole new approach to innovation here, in his Gone Boarding blog.)
Net/net: the Silicon Valley innovation model works. Big companies need to learn to embrace the chaos behind it.