Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Human and Explosive Nature of Innovation

The challenges to innovate that entrepreneur and author Steve Blank pinpoint are, in large, measure human in nature.  For one, if any CEO still does not realize or appreciate the radical changes in the business landscape, since the start of the century, he or she must stop, step back, and look around.  It may be unwillingness, or uncertainty, or inability on his or her part.  Regardless, he or she puts the company in jeopardy going forward.    

For another, if such a CEO does realize and appreciate the new business reality, he or she may respond tactically or internally or expediently.  Blank argues that these changes are so wide-sweeping, the CEO must grasp it as a systemic phenomenon: that is, strategic, along with tactical; external, coupled with internal; measured, as balanced with expedient.

What's more, Blank points to a common tendency in companies to create a group or department to deal with innovation.  That may be well and good.  But the fundamental necessity to seep an innovative mindset across the enterprise does not magically happen by appointing a Chief Innovation Officer.  That CIO must liaise forthrightly, meaningfully with his or her colleagues in P&L, M&A and R&D.  This is a first step in demonstrating that the group or department isn't merely an appendage to the body, but a fully functioning, integral part of that body.

Steve Blank
The solution, Blank argues, is blowing up the architecture completely.  The aim is to make continuous innovation an integral of the company.  The reason why this is so difficult is that leaders are too timid.  

I'm not sure, at the moment, what Blank means by blowing up.  But I'll share the following, briefly for now.

I'm working on a corporate application of Albert Einstein's famous E = mc².  In part this equation means that the tiniest of mass can produce a great deal of Energy.  What might this mean for a company?  It's maximizing the fewest of resources, the smallest of effort, and the shortest supply of talent for the success of the company.  

But, you see, mass doesn't just result in phenomenal energy.  Colliding it via fusion or splitting it via fission can create that big output of energy, however.  We're not talking about vehicles crashing into each other or even hammering an object to pieces.  Rather, we're talking about nuclear collision and splitting at atomic levels.

E = mc², in short, is the genesis of the atomic bomb that the US dropped on Japan during World War II.  

So when Blank refers to blowing up the architecture, I wonder if he means doing something so tectonic and explosive (figuratively speaking) that a company has to rebuild itself with a new architecture.  Much easier said than done.  I imagine that Blank aims to blow things up without actually blowing things up, that is, radically changing the outdated, declining aspects of an organization without destroying the entire organization in the process.  

Quite a challenge, indeed.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

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