How is the latent energy within an organisation released and directed towards profitable new thinking? This is the core question discussed in this article. The hypothesis is that it is insufficient to appoint innovative talent in order to bring out the company’s inherent capacity for innovation. Initiatives are needed founded on the fundamental ability of the organisation itself to demonstrate progressive ideas. The article is based on the author’s consultations with Shipyard LTD on the Danish island, in 2006.
The shipyard, which is the largest employer on, carries out a variety of repairs, reconstruction and maintenance work on ships up to 100 meters in length. A few new ships are being constructed as well. The current strategic process was deemed essential due to large new investments in the shipyard. Additionally, the company saw a need for an innovative strategic approach. The article is based on experiences from this process.
J. P. Kotter J. G. March Organisations Extensive Changes 1. Are organisations inherently inflexible or innovative? Some organisational theories state that organisations are rigid and need strong efforts and management control in order to change. J. P. Kotter is a well-known proponent of this view. Other theories – that organisations possess large innovative reserves – are propounded by, among others, J. G. March, a theorist, with not as much practical clout as Kotter, since his research is less hands-on and hence less accessible. But who is right? Approachability and hands-on manuals do not determine what is best for the individual organisation.
Organisations are very diverse, just like human beings, and do not fit one universal mould. Nonetheless, it is essential for an organisation to identify and uncover all intrinsic, latent, innovative resources within the company. Pressure from globalised markets, customers, suppliers and competitors, and rapid information networks set the agenda for continuously broader changes at steadily lower prices. Therefore, incorporating innovation into organisations’ business models has become essential to their existence.
Creative Individuals The Individual Talent The Innovation Challenge 2. Should companies identify the few creative talents – and stake their future on them – in order to rekindle corporate innovation? One way to introduce novel ideas is to identify highly creative individuals – talents – hire them, and then inject innovation into the organisation through them. This approach poses several problems, however. How do you outline the profile of a talent, when the business model is constantly changing?
The organisation would be employing someone without having defined an exact profile. The risk also exists that the organisation is left with a pool of “outdated talent” whose expertise is geared towards a different time period. Furthermore, what can one talent accomplish in conjunction with a hundred other individuals who need to change? In actual fact, the result of adding one new drop of talent to an organisational pool is often minimal. Another outcome could be a lack of available talent in case all organisations decide to solve their innovation dearth by hiring specific, selected talented individuals.
Practical problems are escalating when organisations attempt to meet the innovation challenge by hiring talent. It is necessary, therefore, to revert to the concept of the organisation’s ability for new thinking. However, it would serve the purpose of this analysis to look more closely at the term ‘innovation’ and consider it in the broader perspective of how to rekindle your organisation’s hidden innovation!