Smartly placed, legitimizing constraints actually enable innovation by focusing it and giving it traction in the competition for corporate attention and resources.
The authors’ research suggests that a variety of traps that forestall innovation can be avoided by, paradoxically, placing boundaries on innovation activity. In an environment without boundaries, say the authors, there is no context for shared interpretation or common expectations. Boundaries, on the other hand, act not as constraints but as aids to defining innovation needs and producing useful outputs that business units can exploit. Smartly placed constraints actually act as enablers of innovation by making it more palatable and execution friendly and giving it traction in the competition for corporate attention and resources.
Drawing on their research, the authors offer several scenarios of “boundaries in use.” They describe how Shell makes the radical legitimate by making it thematically relevant to core business, how Nokia restricts its innovation efforts to business-unit strategies and environmental turbulence, how Air Products focuses on ideas that leverage operational capabilities, how Siemens focuses on innovation potential that crosses products and businesses, and how IDEO’s work with Texas Health Resources reframes the customer experience to anchor solutions in new ways.