Innovation Management Rocks

Day 132 Week 19 Q2 Saturday, May 13, 2023

Managing your own innovation differs from managing others’ innovation, with a continuum bridging the two. Where one currently lies on the continuum depends greatly upon context; first, who are the people involved, as they will differ greatly. Second, what deadlines external to these people exist, such as a promised deliverable? Third, what is the brand and reputation of the entity within which this activity is occurring? Of course, there are many more, but the keyword here is it depends. There are many dependencies in the innovation process. 

Then there is the question, Can innovation be managed at all? I would say about as much as a cowboy can manage the steer he riding in a rodeo, but the innovator can stay on for longer than a few seconds. Innovation management is more like innovation championing than traditional management. There is certainly a role to play, but it is not a typical management role. It is part cheerleader, provocateur, resource gatherer, confidant, and more.

Innovation is complex. It can be time, people and market dependent. It is also relativistic in that what is common in one land or industry may be revolutionary in another. This complex combination is fascinating and frustrating at the same time. Some people will be delighted, and some will be horrified. This is not a job for the weak-willed, as you are forcing and cajoling into being a new reality that did not exist prior.

It is a hard job, and it really helps if you have been an innovator in the past. And defending the integrity of the innovation is part of it. There will be many obstacles. Some will be technical, but most will be human. The technical obstacles can be understood and dealt with more easily than the human emotionally seemingly unreasonable situational responses. Do not try to negotiate with nature and physics, you have to accept their reality, for they do not care what your opinion is, only what factual replicable insights you can bring to the table. 

Being a cheerleader and midwife simultaneously is called to bring new insights into the world and get them adopted. It is a bit like being a parent, for you have to prop up new insights until they can stand on their own supporters by evidence of usefulness and viability.

Nothing is more glorious in the world than manifesting insights as adopted value-adding expressions. This is the sometimes steaming caldron from whence tomorrow emerges. It can sometimes be too hot to handle initially but gradually cool into something sweet and soothingly useful.  

I am doing my job if these descriptions seem too fanciful for a down-to-earth buttoned-up manager. Innovation is a bit mysterious. Where it comes from and how it comes about is often an aesthetic engineering process combining technical robustness and emotional relevancy. 

It has to work well, and people need to care about it working, or it will not get traction even to begin scaling up to mass adoption.

Innovation Management Rocks