Author Archives: Rowan Gibson

Corporate Innovation System - an innovation engine

Co-authored with Peter Skarzynski, CEO of Strategos, in close collaborationwith well-known strategy guru Gary Hamel, I believe that “Innovation to the Core” (Harvard Business School Press) is by far the most important thing I’ve ever done.Lots of people have been asking me for a synopsis of the book, so here goes…Could you describe your company’s “corporate innovation system”? Ask this question inside most organizations and all you get is a blank stare. It’s obvious that, in the vast majority of firms, innovation is still more buzzword than core competence.Yet a few leading-edge players – including GE, IBM, P&G, Whirlpool, Shell, Cemex, Best Buy, and W.L. Gore – are demonstrating that large industrial organizations really can tackle the challenge of innovation successfully in a broad-based and highly systemic way.What these companies understand is that it’s entirely possible to make innovation an “all-the-time, everywhere” capability, something that becomes part of the organization’s … Continue reading

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Innovating Healthcare

The first modern hospitals were founded in Europe and America in the 18th century. About a hundred years later, both the pharmaceutical industry and the health insurance industry began to emerge. So it’s safe to say that, in much of the developed world, the healthcare business has been around for about two or three centuries. And, over time, like most other businesses, it has become bigger, better and faster. But has it actually become different in any essential ways? Not really. Yet that’s about to change. In a world of hyper-accelerating change, global competition, rapidly commoditized products and services, and unprecedented patient primacy, the industry is waking up to the need to reinvent itself from top to bottom for a whole new era.Over the last few years, I’ve been spending a disproportionate amount of time with healthcare people. Not because I’m sick (thankfully!). But because there’s a growing recognition right … Continue reading

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Elevating HR to Drive Innovation

It’s every employee’s nightmare in recessionary times: finding a “pink slip” in the pay envelope, or getting a fateful phone call from HR. Over five million workers in America have had that gut-wrenching experience since the economy hit a wall in 2007. And this year the global layoff tsunami will claim millions more jobs worldwide. So I imagine that, right now, a lot of HR Directors are feeling about as popular as bird flu. But they need to take heart. Even in the midst of the worst economic woes for several decades, a new day is dawning for Human Resources. It’s the day that HR finally gets the strategic recognition it deserves; the day that HR steps up from a mundane back-office function to play a center stage role.My friend, Dave Ulrich, professor of business at the University of Michigan, has long argued that HR leaders should assume a more … Continue reading

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Waiting for Innovation

My heart goes out to innovators the world over. Even at the best of times, it can be tough to find financial backing for radical new ideas. But in the midst of a once-in-acentury, out-of-control economic crisis, with corporate profits in a steep nosedive and banks unwilling to lend, the chances of getting some resources to push an idea forward are currently close to zero in many organizations. Yet it’s estimated that 70 percent of today’s revenue-producing products and services will be obsolete in just five years, not to mention the industry business models behind them. So if companies give innovation the thumbs-down now, exactly how and when do they intend to renew their offerings – and their core business strategies – for driving future growth?We all know that over the last several months global demand for almost everything has fallen off a cliff. Customers across the board are cutting … Continue reading

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Empty Innovation Engine

This is the sixth of several ‘Innovation Perspectives’ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘What is the most dangerous current misconception in innovation?’. Now, here is Rowan Gibson’s perspective:by Rowan GibsonOne of the most prevalent and dangerous misconceptions in innovation is that it’s all about coming up with ideas. So when companies catch the innovation bug, their tendency is to run off and immediately launch fun initiatives like online suggestion boxes, creative competitions, open innovation programs and offsite brainstorming sessions. Of course, in themselves, these initiatives are not wrong. In fact, they can be an essential part of the process. But ideas are just the front end of innovation. Without the back end of innovation – the capacity to effectively screen ideas, align them with strategy, allocate resources to them and manage them successfully toward commercialization – all of those light bulbs … Continue reading

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Steve Jobs Health Concern and Innovation

That’s the bugging question that just won’t go away. It seems to get asked every time Steve Jobs goes to the doctor. First it was a brush with cancer. Now it’s amysterious “hormone imbalance” that has left Jobs looking gaunt, forced him to cancel his appearance at Macworld 2009, and put him on a six month medical leave. Once again, people are wondering if Apple has lost its core. But why exactly does the company have this sword of Damocles hanging ominously over its head? Is the destiny of one of the world’s most exciting and successful companies really so precarious? If so, what does this tell us about making one “great man” the kingpin of an organization’s entire innovation strategy?Rumors around Jobs’ health (and speculation about the impact his departure would have on Apple) have been circulating the Internet for months. Yet this is merely the latest episode of … Continue reading

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Doorman Taxi

In March 2008, British Airways discontinued its decades-old daily service between London Heathrow and Detroit. Not exactly world-shattering news, you might think. But BA’s decision was quite significant. They made it because passenger numbers had dwindled so pathetically low that the flights were no longer profitable. It’s just one of a whole kaleidoscope of symptoms that signaled the Motor City’s dismal decline. Then, Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers were forced to beg for billions in bailout money to stave off bankruptcy (although Ford opted out). Yet, as far as I can see, not one of them seems to have a credible plan for long-term viability. All of which begs the burning question: How could such powerful car giants ever get in this sorry state?Over twenty years ago, auto-industry analyst Maryann Keller wrote a book called “Rude Awakening: The Rise, Fall, and Struggle for Recovery of General Motors”. It recounts hair-raising stories … Continue reading

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