Forward-looking executives must respond to the growing need for a new managerial model.
NOVEMBER 2007 • Joanna Barsh
Joanna Barsh: So I’m a CEO. What do I do? I have the courage; I’ve got the audacious goal.
I will say that the ideas on how to organize for the 21st century have now reached a stage of maturity where people are ready to consciously innovate. It isn’t like ten years ago, when we were still trying to figure out digitization and globalization.
Gary Hamel: I would argue there’s not 1 company out of 1,000 today that has created an organization in which innovation is truly everyone’s responsibility.
CEOs tell me, “Gary, we’re really serious about innovation”—and what CEO isn’t these days? My response is to go down to first-level employees and ask them a few questions. The first question I ask is, (1) “How have you been trained as a business innovator? What investment has the company made in teaching you how to innovate?”
The second question I ask is, (2)“If you have a new idea, how much bureaucracy do you have to go through to get a small increment of experimental capital? How long is it going to take you to get 20 percent of your time and $5,000 to test your idea? Is that a matter of months or is it very easy for that to happen?”
The third question is, “(3) Are you actually being measured on your innovation performance or your team’s innovation? Does it influence your compensation?”
And finally I’ll ask, (4)“As you look at the management processes in your company, do they tend to help you work as an innovator or get in the way?” When you ask these questions of first-line employees, you quickly discover that in most companies there’s still a big gap between the rhetoric of innovation and the reality.
Joanna Barsh: Final thoughts?
Lowell Bryan: More economic integration has taken place in the past 30 years, you could argue, than in the previous 10,000 years of human history. And the organization of companies, as Gary has said, is lagging behind the changes in the world economy. But to my mind, it’s just an incredibly exciting opportunity for the world at large because, for the first time, the ability to create wealth is being liberated from the inputs of labor and capital.
Ideas are being monetized in ways never before possible, and the world is a richer place. I’m not just talking about creating financial wealth; I’m talking about a much more stimulating work environment, with more interesting jobs for employees to create more valuable products and services for the world’s consumers. It is just an incredibly exciting time to be alive.