What leader today doesn't want more innovation? Yet, producing more (of anything) inside an organization generally leads to more process, which smothers individual creativity and all-too-often kills organizational innovation. Innovation isn't about structuring a process to lead to an outcome so much as it's about creating space—both elbow room, the space to roam free of bureaucratic rules and red tape, and head room, the freedom to see differently, think wildly, and aim higher. The leaders who generate more creative energy and innovation are always wrestling with the question: How do we design in more slack? Or, how do we cultivate an environment and support work that enlists people as drivers of their own destiny and inventors of the company's future?
When we launched the Harvard Business Review/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation last year, we aimed to enlist the most progressive practitioners and thinkers in the collective effort of reinventing what we call “the technology of human accomplishment.” We believed that people from all over the world in every realm of endeavor were launching initiatives and experimenting with radical practices to advance the cause of making all organizations more resilient, inventive, inspiring, and accountable.
We know that if we want to close the gap between the status quo and our big dream of creating companies that are fundamentally fit for the future (and fit for human beings), we need to enlist the ideas and energies of the most progressive thinkers and radical doers from every realm of endeavor.
About two years ago, I read a book called The Future of Management by Gary Hamel at the recommendation of some friends. I couldn’t put it down, devouring Gary’s three case studies of companies ( Google , Whole Foods , and W.L. Gore ) pushing aside 100+ years of management wisdom and charting their...