A post on Forbes caught my eye this morning. The rant against armchair quarterbacks aside, it highlights an important issue associated with managing organizational innovation. In particular, companies need to cultivate new and potentially radical ideas while also selecting, evaluating, and implementing the most promising leads. How can managers balance “letting a hundred flowers bloom” with the time and resources required to care for those hundred flowers? Here are the key lines:
No organization, not even Google, has enough time, money, and resources to invest in every good innovation. You must choose, and focus on the best opportunities only. True, you might miss a big one completely. But at least you won’t stumble over and trash several high-potential innovations within your grasp because you were distracted by dozens of average innovations.
Successful innovation strategy is the process by which promising ideas are cultivated and implemented. Organizational slack (a technical term for the money that Google can throw at innovation) doesn’t necessarily exempt high-performing companies from this tension, it just allows them to make “little” $100m mistakes here and their as they try out their ideas.