Wake up Business Leaders, Learn to Innovate

Last week, I was at a small gathering of really cool companies in Boston, organized and sponsored by our friend, Peter Koen at Stevens’ Institute of Technology. Peter runs a consortium of companies who are all concerned with—you guessed it—how to make innovation happen better in their companies. Kraft, ExxonMobil, P&G, HP, Becton-Dickinson, and Corning were there. The specific topic was how to organize for innovation. Should an innovation group be separated or embedded in the business units? This was the subject of debate.

The speakers were yours truly, as well as George Westerman of MIT, and Bruce Harreld of Harvard, though he was formerly Sr VP of Strategy for IBM and engineered their famous Emerging Business Opportunities management system. With Bruce was Caroline Kovac, who ran IBM’s Life Sciences EBO very, very successfully.

I think there were 35 people in the room. All of them smart. All of them pretty high powered. Some were CTO’s and Chief Engineers. Some were from the Strategic Marketing community. Some were from the HR/Talent management/Org Design communities of their organizations. Others were from the Finance community. All were part of the Innovation initiatives in their companies, and all of them seemed to learn a lot during the two days. The questions were rich. Their engagement was wonderful. They struggled with some of what they were hearing, but it felt like a high level Executive MBA course, in some ways. They really dug in, and seemed to absorb so much of what they were hearing.

What strikes me is how much education there is to be done about this emerging management discipline. We know a lot more about it than we give ourselves credit for. We know how to make it work. Listen to Bruce Harreld and Caroline Kovac. It is not rocket science. It’s naivete at this point. Educators and those who are experienced in this can contribute so much right now.

So, we keep talking. All week. Every week. Next month, I’ll be doing a webinar for the Management Roundtable. Hope to hear from some of you!