"An innovative company can make ordinary people
do extraordinary things", declared Andy Boynton. For
this professor at IMD "innovativity" is a problem
of management as well as inspiration. "Most companies
do not know how to manage 'ideas' even though there has been
real progress in managing materials, information and even
The most common mistake, in his opinion, is to hire one
or two top executives thus stifling the potential of the other
workers. "Techniques exist to leverage the creative potential
of the entire staff".
Raphaël H Cohen shares this same approach. The Director
of the new program of Entrepreneurship at the University of
Geneva (and contributor to PME Magazine) is a serial entrepreneur.
He act as a consultant, specializing in "intrapreneurship"
providing specific tools for "Management by Opportunity".
In other words, considering the employees as "intrapreneurs";
inciting them to identify and seize all opportunities to improve
the performance of their organization, and helping them to
methodically focus, evaluate and develop their ideas no matter
what their area of expertise (product development, marketing,
management, sales, maintenance, etc.), up to the implementation
"Intrapreneurial" culture goes further than just
participative management; because it requires enabling structures
to facilitate innovative behavior, and therefore goes beyond
just taking initiative.
Creating an "Innovation Hub" could, for instance,
be implemented to provide a forum for innovation and easier
access to upper management as well as to accelerate time-to-market.
This tool is of particular interest to large and medium-size
corporations. As opposed to the "Idea Box" (see
insert) it goes further than a parallel structure just gathering
and evaluating ideas. Raphael Cohen explains, "An Innovation
Hub gives the initiator of a project the resources to develop
his idea, provided it is truly innovative. It also helps him
navigate through obstacles and puts him in contact with those
people who can contribute to his project. It basically helps
to implement the project".
Training workshops providing tools and creativity are recommended
to induce an "intrapreneurial" culture. No matter
where you are within the hierarchy, high or low, a central
idea will be the guideline. Raphael Cohen confirms this: "distributed
intelligence performs better than centralized intelligence,
as proven in several studies done with insects, as well as
by computer simulation. This is why certain companies outperform
others as they establish a better balance between autonomy,
coordination and control of their members".
Intrapreneurship is not the answer to everything, especially
with radical innovations. "I do not believe in this.
You should take out of the large corporation the authors of
really novel projects because, within the corporate structure,
they do not have enough freedom. Separation is sometimes necessary,"
says Francois L'Eplattenier.
Management By Walking
"Within corporations all tools are useless if the people
are not motivated by their leaders. That is to say the leaders
must take an interest in them." Francois L'Eplattenier
underlines the importance of, for example, "management
by walking". This means that a manager should hear from
his staff, in the halls or offices, ideas, which would never
be openly expressed in formal or semi-formal meetings. The
former President of Ciba used to reserve one afternoon per
month for unscheduled meetings; that afternoon he refused
all formal appointments."
Social recognition, in addition to financial recognition,
is a motivation that no one can deny. Encouraging staff to
translate their ideas into action is not only an innovative
tool but also a human resources management tool.