The Organizational Strategist

October 21, 2010

The requisite organizational needs that supersede innovation success


Recently, I have been reading a new management book The Other Side of Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. Innovation is always an interesting topic for organizations. Innovation is interesting because it is often what spurs on growth and change. Without frequently innovating, the organizational risk of obsolescence increases dramatically. As a result of that, organizations should always be innovating both in their core and future business efforts.

-Design the organization for innovation-

The Other Side of Innovation makes the foundational points that the performance engine should be separated from the dedicated team in order for the innovation effort to be a success. The performance engine is defined as the core business while the dedicated team is the team that is tasked with innovating. Core business efforts are focused to continually improve efficiency and effectiveness. Innovation efforts, on the other hand, can be oriented to sustain or amplify aspects of the core business or create entirely new possible business efforts. Brand new business efforts are often disruptive to existing businesses. Innovation, by its very nature, means a change to the existing operations either by adding to, removing from, or modifying the current efforts. That means that the core business efforts of continual improvement and innovation can be in conflict. As a result, the separation from the core business’ drive for continual improvement is needed for innovation efforts to succeed. Beyond that, the more an organization needs or wants to innovate, the further separated the innovation effort should be from the core business.

To set up an innovation effort within the bounds of the core business, the output of the effort will not be as novel or extraordinary as it could be. This is because of the constraints imposed by the core business. With any innovation venture, the change that the innovation brings will be a result of the ideas cultivated during the effort churns in its own development cycles. Thus, if everyone in an innovation venture is from the same business group, then the potential for the innovation is contained to that realm of thinking. That containment from the business group can be the normal demands of the job, operating rhythm of the group, culture of the organization, available time, and resistance to change among other factors. The more diverse the group that is driving the innovation effort is and the less assumptions, constraints and boundaries that are imposed on the innovation effort, the more possibilities the innovation effort can undertake or become.

Innovation should be intentionally designed to thrive in its own organizational scope. By that, it should have its own strategy to change and inspire the core organization after the innovation effort itself matures. In that manner, it’s like a merger or acquisition since it is initially separated and then needs to be assimilated into the greater organization once it is a viable business initiative. While the innovation itself is developing, the innovating mini-organization should operate with its own unique processes, and function in its own cadence, with its accompanying reinforcement and policies. Since the innovation may become an entirely different business, it does not make sense to align it or measure it in the same manner of a core business. Core business is measured on operational performance while entrepreneurial operations, like innovation efforts, are often gauging market potential. Innovation, like entrepreneurism, should be measured on an entirely different set of standards than operational performance. Similarly, the rewards or incentives for innovators should not be the same as core business employees because they should be encouraged to do different activities.


Innovation is needed to continually renew an organization. The phrase “innovate or die” comes to mind because innovation is so crucial to the sustainability of an organization. Innovation is needed across all organizations to ensure they remain relevant and up to their market environment’s needs. The faster the pace of the industry or market environment, the more diversity, freedom to experiment and openness to new circumstances and possibilities are needed for innovation pursuits. The more innovation that is needed, the stronger the case is to have an independently functioning team or mini-organization. That is why an organization or team must undergo the change to be independent and embracing diverse ideas to then promote successful innovation.

October 4, 2010

Motivating your organization to advance strategically


Many of the posts made on this blog are about devising, understanding, and setting the right strategy. Crafting the right strategy is absolutely essential to make your organization win. Taking the strategy and implementing it can be an entirely different challenge. With the larger the number of people involved and the more complex the strategy is, the harder it can be to align the resources and capabilities. Organizational development makes that alignment occur. The means to enact organizational development requires motivation of the people involved. That motivation can take three different forms, each with their own approach.

-The three ways to motivate-

The three ways to motivate are faith, fact, and fear. Faith is the belief that something good will happen. Fact is grounded in using historic information to predict future occurrences. Fear is the belief that something bad will happen.  

Fear is the easiest to enact. I am reminded that this tactic is prevalent throughout our society when I see political campaigns, the evening news, or read newspapers. Simply by creating doubt, fear is enabled. Fear that something bad will happen is a strong pull. When used throughout an organization, it makes building trust harder, saps the energy of the people involved, and can lead to differing and opposing factions.

Fact is a methodical and time intensive approach to utilize. Data can be collected throughout an organization’s operations or brought in via market research, intelligence or data gathering services. Having a factual understanding of what has happened can be a strong indicator of what will happen in the future. The difficulty of relying too much on previous data is that new or changing environments with new or different variables may mean that the data is not available, or worse, deceiving and misdirecting.

Faith is likely the hardest to perform effectively. The belief that something will go well in the future must be built on trust. Trust can be difficult to build and is easy to break down. Blind faith can lead to poor decision making and action, just like the other over-uses of fear and fact. Yet, the belief and hope of positive notions is freeing and enabling. This is where visionary or inspirational motivation shines as it brings out the best in people and energizes those involved.


There is a right fitting time and place for each of the three motivational approaches. Motivation is what spurs on change. That change in the organization can make the strategy effective and realize its aims. The combination of the grounded nature of fact and uplifting character of faith is the best approach to take with guiding an organization. Having a factual, data driven environment ensures that the change is made and tracked in an informed manner. Having an inspired view of the future allows for creativity and openness.  Environments that utilize the best of fact and faith are both effective and enabling. That is where the most powerful strategies can be realized.

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