Sunday, March 19, 2006
Breaking the Corporation - Redefining Innovation
A nice article from the Post about the Office highlight something many of us can instinctively feel: the corporation is broken.
The ways we manage are deeply out of sync with the world around us. There's a reason so many movies, books, etc have been focused on the Kafkaesque institution the corporation has become.
They are telling us something very important: it's time to innovate not just what we produce, or who we sell it to, but why we produce.
My profs stressed "who, what, how" as a simple template for strategic innovation (redefine customer selection, value propositions, value chains). This is probably the most powerful strategic innovation framework around - it's a simple but elegant synthesis of many strands of thinking (Value innovation/market-driving, Porter/IO, RBV, etc).
The question that occurred to me even then was: where is the "why" in this equation?
Today, IMHO, the "why" is becoming much more important. Why do we produce the way we do? Why do we focus on the so-called productive when it's patently absurd most of the time? Why do we manage in such obviously self-defeating ways?
I think the next wave of great strategic innovation will be built on asking "why" - and answering it in radically new ways.
Let me give you a few examples.
Coordination innovators are asking: why do we interact?
Brand innovators are asking: why do we need to attach social meanings?
Media innovators are asking: why do we need to mediate?
Makers of markets, networks, and communities are asking: why do we need the firm?
Disruptive managers are asking: why do we need to control?
Strategists (esp the ones that work with me) are asking: why do we need competencies at the core? Why do we need to compete?
Soon, I think, if you're not asking "why" - instead of "who, what, how", you will be squarely at the mercy of global hypercompetition and the accelerating loss of traditional sources of advantage.
This is a very important point, Umair, and very elegantly put. Serial entrepreneur Dave Smith has a whole book probing the question called, appropriately, to be of use
. I suspect that many large organizations would find, if they asked 'why' about everything they did, they might be shattered by the shallowness of their answers.
I'm one of those people who cant help asking "Why?, What? Who? How?"
In my 20 year career in IT and marketing all the companies I've worked for both small and large, web and finance have encouraged innovation in public while being hostile to it in practice.
This is because innovation questions "rock the boat". They cause trouble and provoke disharmony. They threaten peoples expertise, status and control.
In my experience the companies with the strongest culture and the most success are the ones with the most hostility to innovation. After all you dont want people asking "Why" when you ask them to drink the cool aid. And why would you want to undermine the power structure when things are going well?
I've come to the conclusion that organisational behaviour is all about power and it's use and abuse.