Busy few weeks, so I am not able to write an "intelligent" post. Our MBA program started in Marseille; our MBA program in Shangai starts tomorrow; I had my scientific council; the Euromediterranean Management Approach course started again (and can soon be followed via the Wikis of the students, accessible via the discussion page of my blog). But I want to share with you a story that I recently heared and that is typical for innovation.
A person is asked for an interim job in a company, in order to innovate a complete division (that is in trouble for years). A creative an undertaking person as he is, he succeeds (to the surprise of some and to the joy of many) in a year's time to get the division out of the red figures. People are motivated again (we sometimes forget it, but that is of course the clue for all change and improvement, not the numbers), the results are coming, and the entire company appreciates his efforts. A member of the board even suggests that it would be a good idea if he would join that board. And indeed, why not. Invited by his boss a few weeks later, he even gets a haircut before, buys a new suit, since he thinks they might want to talk about another (board) position.
The immediate boss congratulates the guy and then says: good job, "you are done now". The guy, who sees many more possibilities for further improvement and innovation answers: of course not, we could go much further. But his boss repeats that "he is done". The guy did not understand and asks what he precisely means. Simple, that you are finished with your assignment. The guy recalls that he has a contract for one more year and to his astonishment the boss responds: we will pay you for that additional year, don't worry, but you are done now. Thanks.
You will not belief this, but the same person gets another assignment, elsewhere, and he gets exactly the same experience. He is just a creative and innovative entrepreneur, nothing else.
Despite the fact that many companies ask for innovation managers and creative intrapreneurs, many companies are just not ready for it. And once the success is coming, the company moves back to "business as usual": we manage the figures. As long as we define innovation as a procedure to create innovative products or services, and intratrepreneurs as risk loving creators that have limited managerial skills, innovation will remain a very theoretical concept. We will decrease the CO2 emission of our cars with 1% per year, at a high R&D cost, but we will never find a solution for sustainable transportation systems.
Innovation is a state of mind, a learning process, that is a never ending story of creation and interaction. For those interested, I have edited a book around this view on innovation, together with a number of my PhD students that I have had.