Kellogg EMBA … Innovation Strategy and Management

Prof. Rob Wolcott is leading a very interesting and practical class on Innovation Strategy and Management, at the Kellogg School of Management Executive MBA elective week. The topic of innovation has been widely written about in the context of seed stage startups, a-la ‘garage ventures’ that were born in a moment of inspiration and nourished through the soul of committed entrepreneurship.

What makes Prof. Wolcott’s focus on innovation is his empirical evidence and conviction that true innovation potential and possibilities lie within large corporations. Yes, you read that right … and your latte was not spiked.

Think about it. Large companies are large for a reason. Something works. They have customers. They understand their needs. They are able to meet them. Question is, can they look around corners and beyond the horizon to create and meet the next generation of needs?

With a truly strategic focus (as you would expect from a B-School of this stature), yet grounded in empirical evidence, Prof. Wolcott’s class is one that can reframe mental models and create a sea of possibilities.

3 obvious ideas:

a) innovation as a process: think of the process of coming up with a new idea and going to market. look at your own middle management, and ask if they might inadvertently be coming in the way of innovation. ‘this is not in our budget’, ‘do we have a customer who needs this’. and other forms of blockers could come in your way.

b) hindsight bias: business history is replete with examples of large companies that failed to see an upstart innovation, or buyout a small startup that was poised to go big. the story of Google wont be repeated here. intelligence is a given in the rear view mirror. so, why dont you take yourself to the future, say 5 years out, see where you might be and look back to see how you got there. time travel, anyone?

c) worse, before better: Prof. Clayton Christenssen popularized the notion of disruptive innovation. things are worse before they are better. yet, how many times do we choose to ignore something that might be better in the long term, only because it ‘doesnt look like the way we do things’. lets see, how about your own hiring processes? so many firms are wedded to a regimental recruiting process that doesnt allow them to truly identify the next new generation or type of talent. why cant disruptive innovation apply where it matters most, i.e., managing your human capital?

ok, enough provocative thoughts for one day. what’s your innovation story? what worked? what can be done better?

btw – if you are in the Kellogg EMBA program, dont miss this class. Truly what Executives and others need today. The future is built today, and we work on it, one day at a time.



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