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Experiments can be powerful mechanisms for managers to gain insights that deepen their intuition, especially when the organization has unique data.
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The overconfidence of presumed expertise is counterproductive. Instead, data trumps intuition. Serious innovators take data seriously, argues Michael Schrage: “Organizations may be confident they know their customers, but they’re very likely to be overconfident. Most executives aren’t nearly as smart, perceptive or customer-centric as they believe.” Successful innovators, he writes, “have the courage of their curiosity” and run experiments that challenge their assumptions.
What happens when an academic institution rethinks how research gets done? In an experiment in open innovation applied to scientific research, Harvard Catalyst, a pan-Harvard agency, modified the traditional grant proposal process to bring greater openness into every stage of research. In the end, 150 new hypotheses were proposed. The Harvard Catalyst experience suggests that open-innovation principles can be applied to a well-established research organization.
Too often, organizational change occurs all at once, on a large scale, and often in response to crisis. Yet we know from a great deal of experience that such transformation attempts often fail, fostering employee discontent and producing mediocre solutions with little lasting impact. Continuously pursuing smaller-scale changes — and weaving them together — offers a practical middle path between large-scale transformation and small-scale pilot projects
Business analytics projects are often characterized by uncertain or changing requirements — and a high implementation risk. So it takes a special breed of project manager to execute and deliver them.
Financial Times journalist Tim Harford and author of “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure” argues that companies that have a God complex look for smart people (what he calls “little Gods”) to solve complex problems — when what they should really be doing is establishing systematic processes of trial and error.
The increase in outsourcing and offshoring of complex work has resulted in innovation efforts that require coordination across cultural, geographic and legal boundaries. If that coordination is mishandled, companies can find themselves needing to make multimillion- or even billion-dollar changes. The complexity of the task makes midcourse corrections likely. Managers must anticipate and adapt their processes in order to reduce risk and, ultimately, cost.
“To heck with what the technology can do,” says Michael Schrage of the MIT Center for Digital Business. Great managers, he says, first think about what kind of value they want to create and then consider how IT can help them create it.
A new book includes some interesting observations about the personal characteristics of successful innovators — and what managers can do to strengthen their innovation skills.
Two pieces of news:
1) Some companies are trying an approach to launching products that involves less up-front market research and more experimentation in the marketplace.
2) Innovation is on the agenda of the U.S.’s new CTO.
Expertise in strategic thinking is not the product of innate ability and pure serendipity. It arises from specific experiences (personal, interpersonal, organizational and external) which occur over 10 or more years.
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