source : PME Magazine January, 2002
Managing ideas  By Chantal Thévenoz

"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 financial transactions."

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 stage.

"Intrapreneurial" culture goes further than just participative management; because it requires enabling structures to facilitate innovative behavior, and therefore goes beyond just taking initiative.

Innovation Hub
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".

Behavioral Changes
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".

Spinning Off
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.

back top
Home  • Print this page  • Save this page Send this page to a friend  • e-mail us • Top