Monday, April 5, 2010

The ME, The WE, and The ENTERPRISE - the foundation of an innovation culture

One of the key questions on my mind in recent months since the start of 2010 is what comes next for innovation? Over the past 10 years, one of the most important movements in the innovation community is the concept of Open Innovation. This movement which has challenged how companies think about producing innovation has reshaped how innovators talk about doing their jobs. In the early 2000's, this concept made it ok to partner, ok to look outside for the answer and most importantly it enabled innovators to connect with each other to create gamechanging results. One of the most successful examples of Open Innovation's success is Procter & Gamble. The early days of open innovaiton saw its CEO A.G. Laffley create a cultural value proposition that focused on Open Innovation. When he mandated that 50% of all ideas will come from the outside, Laffley stuck a cultural stake in the ground that forced the employees of Procter & Gamble to holisitically embrace the power of Open Innovation

Over the past few years, however, I have been this movement stalling or better yet does it need to evolve? We still have many conferences and gatherings to celebrate the successes of this mode of thinking, but as the innovation leader of a company I can't help but say, most organizations haven't culturally embraced this concept in total. fact, just he other day I saw a discussion on linked in started by Stefan Lindegard asking, "Do you find open innovation frustrating? You are not alone. What can we to do deal with this?". When I saw this many of my hunches about Open Innovation became a reality. This question to me challenges the essence of what might be wrong with what is a brilliant innovation concept. As I speak with most Open Innovation Advocates, I get the sense the they preach the gospel, but the total acceptance is limited to a senior sponsor and those accountable to drive the inititave. Beyond them, however, most folks within the organization are skeptical and after many years have still not made the transition to align with this external method of thinking.

This brings to what is next. It is quickly becoming my opinion from experience and the literature that in order to get organizations to fully embrace a concept like open innovation it is critical to create a total culture of innovation where all people within an organization embrace thinking and acting differently.

If we think about this in fact we can actually come up with a very simple way to align culture to make things work. In any corporate setting there are three pieces: the me, the we and the enterprise. What does this mean and why is it important to think about when we discuss innovation culture. Let's break it down...

The ME: These are the individuals that make up any organization. As Robert Rosenfeld often claims, "companies don't innovate, people do!" And if this is the case each person who works in any company is critical to the success of creating an innovation culture.

The WE: The WE is the collection of ME's who come together to interact as a group to create competitive advantage. These are the group's that execute projects, build and create novel programs and develop strategies that produce the results for the company.

The ENTERPRISE: Essentially, this is the company. The Enterprise the holisitc entity that gives shape and purpose to the ME's and WE's who create value for companies. The ENTERPRISE is an important piece of the puzzle to call out because it sets the tone with its Mission, Strategy, Credo, Vision and Culture. The ENTERPRISE represents the boundary by which any company operates and within the ENTERPRISE are the individuals who work together to deliver against its wishes.

When thinking about an innovation culture, it is critical for these three things to be aligned in unison for synergy to happen and game changing results to ensue. Stop and think about it. If I can get the individuals or ME's to look inside themselves to understand who they are better as well as get them to respect the differences between themselves and the other ME's collaboration will happen. If the ME's are self aware and respectful of the diversity of thought that exits, then when the ME's are put together to work on problems they will be a better functioning WE. In addition, if we understand how to put the ME's together into better WE's we will get more predictable and more valuable output from their efforts as WE's. And ultimately, if the enterprise can create clarity of its innovation needs by which it expects the ME's to behave then it will create cyclical alignment between all three and this is what it takes to create innovation productivity.

So in essence...ask yourself if I want my entire company to innovate or my function or my team, have I aligned the ME, the WE, and the ENTERPRISE?

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing. I'd say with GE's ecomagination challenge open innovation has evovled, because the processes to quickly evalute and start executing on ideas, and the abilty to tap large networks quickly, has evovled.

    Check out Brightidea's Innovation Sute, powering GE's Ecomagination Challenge here:

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