myths of innovation

6 April, 2007

Scott Berkun gave a fun talk on innovation at the Etech 2007. It was in line with his upcoming book (the myths of innovation). Mainly his presentation featured a lot of good quotes about innovation, which were pretty interesting. The most interesting quote was from William McKnight from 3M about his ‘innovation ethos’ (1948):

As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.

In the end his main point about how to reach innovation was a list of values:

  • delegate responsibilities
  • allow people to do their job in their own way
  • expect mistakes to me made
  • reward initiative

Two of the myths that were dealt with were: innovation is not possible in big organisation (counter: how’s 500.000 people working on the moon landings not a big organisation?), innovation is happening now (counter: everything we see has come from some form of innovation).


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