Gary Hamel is a leader in the innovation field – author of influential books and articles and founder of Strategos in the 90’s.  Nancy Tenant led innovation at Whirlpool and worked with Strategos in the early days of Whirlpool’s innovation efforts. When they write an article together, one should take note.

The authors list five requirements for a truly innovative company:

  1. Employees who’ve been taught to think like innovators
  2. A sharp, shared definition of innovation
  3. Comprehensive innovation metrics
  4. Accountable and capable innovation leaders
  5. Innovation-friendly management processes

The first four of these requirements seem relatively well respected and understood today.  However, the fifth requirement is still very underappreciated by most companies. The authors make a good point when they state:

“…few companies have devoted anywhere near this level of effort to retooling their management practices for innovation. … when we … review (a company’s) innovation efforts, we find a jumble of tools and methods that are not only incomplete, but also poorly integrated.”

On a slightly more critical note, one can find dozens of such lists promoted by various innovation writers and practitioners saying similar things (see here, here, here and here for examples). These ‘listicles’ do little to explain the complex dynamics of a holistic innovation system that is driven by individuals, organizational behavior, ecosystem forces and rapidly evolving technological and social factors. This particular list, while interesting and relevant, is by no means comprehensive. While these may be necessary (and the devil is in the details) they are by no means sufficient.

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