Think product innovation is hard? Management innovation is even harder, according to Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School.
Think successful product or technological innovation is hard? Successful management innovation is even more difficult, according to Julian Birkinshaw, a professor at the London Business School and cofounder of MLab, that school’s Management Laboratory.
“It’s much harder to do management innovation, because with management innovation, what you’re doing is you’re starting with an old set of [mangement] structures and principles, which are often a hundred years old — which even the people who are running them today don’t understand the origins of,” Birkinshaw observed in a recent London Business School podcast interview. As a result, he explained, most successful management innovators are typically start-up companies — because they can start anew.
In an established company, the task of changing the way the organization does work is more challenging and risky than in start-ups. “Many people…are so sort of stuck in tradition; the whole language of top-down and bureaucracy and hierarchy is so much the world that we know that we can’t begin to experiment” and try other ways, Birkinshaw said.
To be sure, Birkinshaw is trying to change that. In an article in the Winter 2009 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, Birkinshaw and Jules Goddard present a framework for thinking about your organization’s management model — depending on how the company approaches managing objectives, enabling individual motivation, coordinating activities and making decisions. An earlier MIT Sloan Management Review article, by Birkinshaw and Michael Mol, looked at how management innovation happens.