What Does Innovation Look Like?

Feb 20, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Failure to create innovative organizations is often a case of having the will but not seeing a way, says the author, educator and chairman of the consulting company Strategos, Gary Hamel.

Mr. Hamel writes in the Winter 2003 edition of Leader to Leader, “Senior leaders do not have a clear, well-developed model of what innovation looks like as an organizational capability. And since they don’t know what it looks like, they don’t know how to build it.”

He argues that companies need to spend more time focusing on what they can be, rather than what they are, to achieve true innovation. He writes, “Radical innovation comes from generating a collective sense of destiny, from unleashing the imagination of people across the organization and teaching people how to see unconventional opportunities. A new sense of direction doesn’t come from a few smart people, who have all been in the company for 20 years, getting together and thinking about it. You have to dramatically increase the strategic variety that’s there, create thousands of new ideas out of which you can look for new themes and directions. And then the role of top management is to be the editor. That is, top managers move from being the creators of strategy to searching for the patterns in the streams of ideas that — in the most innovative companies — constantly emerge in the organization.”

Moderator’s Comment: How does a company transform itself
from one focused on what it is, to an organization dedicated to achieving what
it wants to be? What companies do you think are best at this within retailing,
CPG and related industries?

Reward risk taking. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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