Innovation to the Core, a Book Review

In Innovation to the Core, Peter Skarzynski and Rowan Gibson explain how organizations achieve ongoing innovation by building up an organization-wide, systemic innovation capability.

The “to the core” of the title implies that the effort must touch every aspect of the organization just as Rummler and Brache explain is necessary to achieve deep and lasting change. Making innovation a capability requires changes to processes, job roles, and organizational goals and design.

Innovation is rarely a eureka moment hit upon by a researcher isolated in an R&D department. Nor is it necessarily altogether new. Most innovation comes from people working together, bouncing ideas back and forth, experimenting, and putting existing pieces together in new ways.

Skarzynski and Gibson elaborate on three key preconditions for innovation:

  • Time and space for reflection, ideation, experimentation
  • Diversity of thinking
  • Connections and conversations within a company and between employees, partners, and customers

As you’d suspect, they discuss Google’s practice of giving employee’s time to work on side projects and collaboration technologies for sharing ideas.

A typical constraint on innovation in most organizations is that employees must make their suggestions for innovation to their manager, who in turn must raise it with their manager, so forth and so on up the line. Some manager along the way is all too likely to dismiss the idea out of fear of the unknown. Skarzynski and Gibson explain how to free innovation from political power structures by creating multiple funding sources for innovative projects, which results in a marketplace of ideas much like the business environment of Silicon Valley.

Indeed, Innovation to the Core has a great many valuable suggestions for any organization serious about innovation. Definitely worth a read.

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Posted in Book Review, Innovation

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