Managing for Innovation
As the focus in many firms turns to innovation, I suspect there will be many people who will argue that they have the experience and insights necessary to manage innovation initiatives and projects. What this assumes is that there are great ideas and "all" we need to do is manage those ideas effectively to create new products, services or business models. There's a presumption in that thinking about the culture of the organization and the simplicity of moving an idea from a nascent state to a fully developed offering or solution.
In our firms we've created the mythos of the "management" skill - a person or team that can manage anything - a plan, some people, a project. But what we've lost is the ability to get out of our own way. We can be so focused on creating the Microsoft Project that we've lost sight of the ability to create and explore ideas. Do you manage for production or efficiency - or do you manage for innovation?
What would it look like to manage for innovation? I think it would entail asking your team to create new ideas and explore them fully. It would mean allowing people to chase ideas down a path that may very well end in proving the idea wrong. It would mean divergent rather than convergent thinking. It would mean allowing cross-functional team development and interaction. It would mean additional risk, and would increase the difficulty of measuring your team's activities.
Managing for innovation would be more interesting and more powerful than managing innovation. The second one implies there's one idea to ride herd on, and the first idea implies that anyone can create and generate ideas, so the innovation spectrum and opportunities should be enhanced.