Innovation - why companies need skunks
Do you have any skunks in your organisation? You should be happy if you have! Former CEO of Ericsson, Sven-Christer Nilsson, writes in his book that all great successes within Ericsson (like IP-telephony and mobile phones) have originated from persons that were not accepted by the management. This is not unique for Ericsson. There are a multitude of examples within other large companies. Skunk work, the things that employees do while the management looks away, can obviously be the most important work at the companies.
It seems to be a current trend that companies claim they are innovative, but few truly are. Google is one of few companies that seem to have understood innovation. At Google employees have a day a week for free work (skunk work!). Another thing is their rewards, so that nobody should have to leave Google because they have a great idea. A waste of time and money? No, their best ideas and products have actually evolved from those free work days. It's a matter of freedom combined with responsibility, and they keep the people that have a passion for their ideas.
I can really also recommend the book "The Future of Management" by Gary Hamel, where the author does a good job of explaining innovation (especially management innovation) and why innovation is not just a job for R&D departments. It should be mandatory reading for all management consultants working with Corporate Performance Management / Business Intelligence. One of the main points of the book is that most companies focus on operational efficiency at the expense of strategic efficiency, missing the most valuable business opportunities.
"This doesn't apply to my company" or "my company is a consulting only company, so there is nothing to improve" are comments I have heard from people stuck in the old thinking. I can give a good example of a consulting company organised in a new innovative way, but that will be in another blog post
Einstein said once that "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." I think that is why Apple encourages people to call someone they haven't talked to for 6 months. Why don't you do the same?