Do companies need less innovation?

This is a guest post by Ralph Ohr in response to an article posted on Business Week titled: Why Companies Need Less Innovation.

Thanks for this valuable post.

Although, I just partly agree with the author, the post has greatly initiated an important discussion. The definition of what innovation means in a certain context as well as the resulting question who is responsible to drive the defined scope, turn out to be crucial for innovation success.

As already indicated in former comments, the author tends in his understanding of innovation to focus on the more radical part of the continuum. This part is primarily driven top-down, requires dedicated processes in place and depends on the allocation of selected resources. Leadership needs to assure these pre-conditions, together with a proper link between company’s strategy and innovation. Otherwise, aligned activities and targeted resource management is likely to fail. Arie Goldshlager has well pointed out that an innovation chain is likely to be just as strong as its weakest link.

But there is also innovation at the opposite part of the continuum. I would like to refer to a great post by James Todhunter (@jamestodhunter): In defense of improvement

He pinpoints the importance of improvements for incremental innovation. Improvements typically emerge from daily business and are driven bottom-up by employees in their respective field besides doing their day-to-day job. This is particularly important as incremental innovation usually accounts for the majority of activities to the overall innovation portfolio.

In this sense, everybody in a company is basically in charge to contribute to the development of the company in order to stay competitive – closeness to daily business and time horizon might be different. If we consider innovation to cover a continuum, ranging from incremental to radical purpose, it’s essential that leaders understand that both end of this continuum require different approaches, incl. objectives, mindset, resources and processes.

I don’t think companies need less innovation – I rather think, companies should focus on contributing to innovation at the right point of the continuum.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Regards, Ralph-Christian Ohr