Innovator as Manager: The Changing Core of Business Management

My recent reading of business literature and news refers back to the need for innovation and the problems that have developed when good ideas are in short supply.  Consider the following:

Some of our biggest financial firms got away from their original purpose — to fund innovation and to finance the process of “creative destruction,” . . . too many banks got involved in exotic and incomprehensible financial innovations — to simply make money out of money — which ended up as “destructive creation.” Thomas Friedman, NY Times, 4-1-09.

The recent failings of management . . . are most directly attributed to a famine of good ideas. To take one highly visible example, Enron’s management failed to make the earnings and cash flows it had promised and resorted to creating revenues and hiding debt through complex transactions because they didn’t have sufficiently good ideas to make sales and profits in real ways. Off-balance-sheet financial manipulation was the best idea they had . . . (Boland & Collopy, 2004. Design Matters for Management)

Also, consider Action Learning, a process and disposition touted for management practice: The World Institute for Action Learning considers the following components critical for action learning: An urgent significant problem, A diverse action oriented learning team (4-8 people), a process of insightful questioning and reflection, a commitment to individual, team and organizational learning and action, and a coach to helps team members reflect on learning and problems solving.

What is unique about this process is that it focuses on a diverse team that seeks and acts on ideas.  It is a methodology to spur ideas and innovation that are beyond the capabilities of individuals.  Likewise; Case Western University’s Manage by Designing is another management program that considers a disposition toward ideas and innovation paramount for managing.  Learning for innovation seems to be becoming a core capability for managers.

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