Nowadays, goes the theory, innovation is supposed to be done constantly, by everyone in the company, improving everything the company is about — and new Web-based tools are here to help it happen. Is the theory right? Or do the experiences of companies reveal something different?
Historically, most managers equated innovation primarily with the development of new products and new technologies. But increasingly, innovation is seen as applying to the development of new service offerings, business models, pricing plans and routes to market, as well as new management practices. There is now a greater recognition that novel ideas can transform any part of the value chain — and that products and services represent just the tip of the innovation iceberg.
This shift of focus has implications for who “owns” innovation. It used to be the preserve of a select band of employees — be they designers, engineers or scientists — whose responsibility it was to generate and pursue new ideas, often in a separate location. But increasingly, innovation has come to be seen as the responsibility of the entire organization. For many large companies, in fact, the new imperative is to view innovation as an “all the time, everywhere” capability that harnesses the skills and imagination of employees at all levels. Making innovation everyone’s job is intuitively appealing but very hard to achieve, but many companies have tried — and nearly all believe that’s it’s critical to continue trying.
This article explores the process of innovation in 13 global companies. Many of the standard arguments for how to encourage innovation in large organizations were confirmed, but some surprises were uncovered as well. The article organizes its key insights around five persistent “myths” that continue to haunt the innovation efforts of many companies. The five myths are: (1) The Eureka Moment; (2) Built It and They Will Come; (3) Open Innovation Is the Future; (4) Pay Is Paramount; and, (5) Bottom Up Innovation Is Best.