The Necessity of Management Innovation

Innovation regarding the way we run and manage our companies will be a key requirement to foster business model innovation. Financial Times management writer, Stefan Stern, and Peter Marsh wrote an excellent article on innovative management structures in the FT.

They portrait Terri Kelly, CEO of WL Gore, a $2.5bn turnover company, which is characterized by a totally flat organizational structure.

"Leaders emerge through a democratic process rather than being appointed from the top, and peer appraisal is crucial to both salary levels and career advancement."

Ms Kelly makes a clear case for this type of "democratic management" that would probably steal most traditional managers' sleep. She argues that decisions reached together are pursued much more energetically:

"I think that what you find in a lot of companies is that if there isn’t true support for the decision, it gets undermined along the way. In fact, it may never come to fruition. So on the one hand you’ve made a very quick decision – ‘We’re going to go to China’ – but then you’ve got all kinds of resistance.”

Same goes for business model innovation. The lateral and multi-disciplinary nature of business model innovation projects require the motivation and true buy-in from all parties involved. Top-level support, while necessary, wont be sufficient to succeed.

A must read as to management innovation is Gary Hamel's book "The Future of Management". WL Gore is one of the examples which he explains in-depth. Others are Google, Whole Foods Market and Semco. Good Stuff. Gary Hamel has the merit of being the first "management guru" to raise awareness of this topic at the board level (read the NY Times book review).

Impressively, Gary Hamel, one of the most influentual management thinkers today, didn't just leave it with writing a book. In June this year he gathered 30 leaders in management development, education, consulting, and the CEOs of Whole Foods, Gore, Ideo, Google, and HCL to discuss "the future of management". He mobilized the crème de la crème of management thinking, such as Henry Mintzberg, C.K. Prahalad, Tim Brown, Peter Senge, ... (too many gurus to mention them all). His gathering question was “why can’t we bring as much innovation, adaptation, and engagement to our organizations as we do to our development of products and technologies?”.

Read more about this event on David Sibbet's blog.