Just devoured the latest Harvard Business Review (all about The Innovative Enterprise). The whole issue is great with lots of tasty nuggets to nibble on, but one paragraph in particular is worth posting here. It is from the article, Breaking out of the Innovation Box by John D. Wolpert. In it he discusses how companies hurt their long-term success with only sporadic (boom & bust), inward-looking innovation. Wolpert essentially reinforces the Creative Generalist mantra that looking across industries and doing it consistently can be a good thing.
This urge to keep innovation inside is reinforced by both traditional and current thinking on the subject. If you look at the examples of innovation cited in books and articles, you’ll find that almost all of them describe the exploits of a small group of employees within a single company – how they stumble on a new opportunity, struggle to overcome company politics and other internal impediments, and ultimately either succeed or fail to commercialize their discovery. Most theories of innovation are similarly introspective. Gifford Pinchot III coined the term “intrepreneuring” in the 1970s; the very name implies an internal focus. Rensselaer Polytechnic’s Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship recommends building internal innovation hubs. Many management gurus suggest that innovation be thought of as a core competency – a distinctive capability that a company nurtures within itself and protects from outside competitors. Even the concept of “knowledge brokering,” which sounds like it would involve collaboration between companies and across industries, is most often described in terms of individuals and groups working within one company.