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The Discipline of Innovation

Why The Discipline of Innovation

In the introduction to a reprint of Peter Drucker’s article The Discipline of Innovation in a best of Harvard Business Review edition, the editor writes:

How much of innovation is inspiration, and how much is hard work? If it’s mainly the former, then management’s role is limited: Hire the right people, and get out of their way. If it’s largely the latter, management must play a more vigorous role: Establish the right roles and processes, set clear goals and relevant measures, and review progress at every step. Peter Drucker, with the masterly subtlety that is his trademark, comes down somewhere in the middle. Yes, he writes in this article, innovation is real work, and it can and should be managed like any other corporate function. But that doesn’t mean it’s the same as other business activities. Indeed, innovation is the work of knowing rather than doing.

In other words, innovation is not an art, it’s a discipline – and that’s why I’m changing the name of the blog to The Discipline of Innovation.

Here is how Drucker himself describes the issues in his article:

Innovation is the specific function of entrepreneurship, whether in an existing business, a public service institution, or a new venture started by a lone individual in the family kitchen. It is the means by which the entrepreneur either creates new wealth-producing resources or endows existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth.

Today, much confusion exists about the proper definition of entrepreneurship. Some observers use the term to refer to all small businesses; others, to all new businesses. In practice, however, a great many well-established businesses engage in highly successful entrepreneurship. The term, then, refers not to an enterprise’s size or age but to a certain kind of activity. At the heart of that activity is innovation: the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential.

The Skills of the Discipline

If innovation is a discipline, what are its basic building blocks?  There are a few:

All of this means that there are no shortcuts to building your innovation capability.

What This Means

Here is the new logo:



There are a few important ideas embodied in this.

I’ve drawn it by hand to illustrate that innovation is a process where you need to get your hands dirty. You can’t automate it, you can’t outsource it.  It’s not polished, professional and efficient – innovation is messy, like my handwriting!

The lightning bolt is the great idea that lies at the heart of innovating.  The monkey wrench is the hard work.  The monkey wrench is also the spanner in the works – innovating nearly always causes problems.  Someone loses, things change.  Change can be threatening, but people can embrace it when they have input into the process.  When you’re driving innovation, you can avoid the surprise of change, and spring that surprise on others.



If you look at the full picture for the logo, you can see the earlier iterations to the left.  Innovation is about experimenting, iterating, and learning.  And this is the third title for this blog.  It feels the most right, but we’ll see how it goes.  It’s another experiment.

And finally, despite the iterations, the drawing isn’t great.  I’ve always been a visual thinker, but a so-so artist.  But if I’m willing to put my drawings in front of people, you should be willing to put your ideas out there too.  You don’t have to be an expert (though knowledge helps).  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just get the ideas out, then you and others can build on them.  It’s an example of Nilofer Merchant’s saying: not everyone will, but anyone can.

My goal here is to help people that are trying to build a better world.  I want to help make work more interesting.  I hope that we can work together to do that.

Hence, The Discipline of Innovation.

Let’s get to work!

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