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Innovate like a Silicon Valley start-up?

June 18, 2014

The following hbr.org post has inspired several of our consultants here at Linkage to comment. Change expert Mitchell Nash has already weighed in while innovation expert Ron Porter has a slightly different take.—Ed.

“We all have a lot to learn from the new generation of companies that have come out of the Silicon Valley revolution,” writes Michael L. Tushman in “Why Silicon Valley Rules Don’t Work for So Many Older Companies.

“Many of these entrepreneurial lessons have been codified in books, the new bibles for innovation—not just for entrepreneurs but also for managers looking to create new and innovative innovation businesses inside existing corporations. Companies that want to shake themselves out of their routines and generate innovation from inside take the Silicon Valley cookbook and start adding recipes from it to their own.

“But it doesn’t always work…

“…bringing in Silicon Valley processes into an established firm really only works as a part of an integrated plan of growth and renewal that reaches far beyond introducing the practices of experimental business design and corporate ‘start-ups.’”

I agree with the basic principles of this article and would add that innovation does not have to be a risky process. In fact, when done correctly (with proper experimentation and testing) the innovation process results in less risk!

The reality is most organizations generally take a fragmented approach to improving their ability to innovate. Sure, a company may concentrate on developing an innovation “process.” Or on developing a “culture” of innovation. But we believe those areas of focus are only part of the solution.

To be really effective and sustainable, organizations need to align 8 major areas:

  • Organizational structure
  • Learning and information
  • Strategy and goals
  • Systems
  • Culture
  • Competencies and performance measures
  • Leadership
  • Processes

In fact, we help our clients do exactly what Tushman suggests in the Creating an Innovation-Capable Organization program we run in exclusive partnership with Steve Shapiro. It takes a comprehensive, systemic approach to making sure that all of the organizational levers are addressed so that innovation is not an event but a system that permeates all aspects of the organization.

When it’s done right, innovation can be an organizational way of life. And it won’t matter how young (or old) the company is.

Now be honest, is innovation an organizational way of life at your company? 

More about Ron

Porter_RonRon Porter is an Executive Vice President and Principal Consultant at Linkage. He brings a broad business perspective to helping complex, global organizations grow and improve. He has over thirty years of consulting and coaching experience working with senior executives and managers. He focuses especially on innovation, strategy development and execution, organizational effectiveness, leadership alignment and development, organizational change, and strategic communication. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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