Innovation and control

Roland at NESTA writes about the problems faced by people in organisations responsible for open innovation.

My colleague David Simoes-Brown likes to say that open innovation professionals are on the ‘fringe of the fringe’ of their organisations. By this he means that innovation teams if they exist tend to be fringe departments as they are about disrupting or evolving the status quo and open innovators are on the fringe of the innovation departments.

I think it can be a tough gig to be put notionally “in charge” of innovation in any circumstances.

If you frame innovation as disruptive then you’re inviting some to organise disorganisation. There are lots of knotty problems with that.

If, alternatively, you frame innovation as natural and innate, again there are questions about anyone being put in charge of it.

Keith Sawyer has interesting things to say about skunk works and other models for innovation departments. I think the short version is that they can work if there is a regular throughput of people from diverse areas of the organisation and from outside. They don’t work so well if they’re mostly permanent staff who are just supposed to innovate.

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