Autonomy, liberty, divergence are innovation drivers, but are they opposite to management rules? In other words, “Can innovation or innovative design be managed?” asks Gilles Garel in his “Innovation Chair” speech.
Management science is the way to lead a collective action, by setting up an efficient framework for teamwork. As innovation is a collective adventure, it can definitely benefit from management: innovation can be managed!
What are then the commonalities between business management in the creative stage initiatives, entrepreneurship, and innovation management? Are there some personality traits that are shared by innovators and entrepreneurs?
Innovators and entrepreneurs are leaders
As both have to drive their team to the direction of success, innovators and entrepreneurs share leader characters:
- They rely on a granite-like belief, a persistant but not blind self confidence, that they turn into inspiration to their followers, committed and passionate. “True innovators want to change people’s life”as Marc Giget claims!
- Innovators and entrepreneurs know they can’t make it alone: they act as team leader, their time is dedicated to make their team rise the challenge, to develop autonomy, a self-initiative and risk-taking culture. Definitely hands on, true entrepreneurs and innovators foster the emergence of co-leaders.
Some take their leader responsibility very seriously, they behave as “humanist entrepreneur“: “Everything we do is about getting people to be more open, more creative, more courageous” states Jack Dorsey, Twitter cofounder and Square founder.
Mixing their belief with their role to inspire, entrepreneurs become storytellers elaborates Jack in the “Golden gate” video. Entrepreneurs and innovators are telling a story of which the product is the hero: “Product is what we’re telling our customers, presenting one cohesive story to the world. As CEO, my main job is editor-in-chief,” Dorsey says.
Sometimes, the leader is the best qualified, “handling an intimate form of expertise” as Thomas Paris, professor at HEC Business School, suggests.
Mostly, he distinguishes by his natural leadership, the way he sets the direction, a clear direction that everyone embraces, leading by his courage to face the unknown of creation and uncertainty of entrepreneurship.
They are the opposite of egocasting and fuzziness
There is some kind of “ego casting” going on in fake leaders and innovators, a fuzziness in the vision and direction set, and a hands off attitude: “I give you the headlines, you will work out the details”. As a result, they work solitary, like goldfish in its round bowl.
Some even act as innovation killers:
- they don’t listen: they are the only ones who can read the future;
- they ensure that only themselves are talking to the upper level, and at the same time, they short circuit team leadership;
- they take the benefit, not the risk.
Far from tis, true innovators and entrepreneurs are surprisingly modest, their cleverness speaks for themself. You can listen to them without being looked down, you understand clearly what they mean: it might be harder to try later to explain their concept yourself!
They care for customer design, and collaborative platform
Two dimensions of innovation management have emerged in the recent years that innovators and entrepreneurs have carved in their DNA: customer experience design, and collaborative platform.
- Customer experience design is about creating a comprehensive positive experience for the customer with your service or product. Customers often do not want the product itself, but rather the effect that the product produces so sharpen the effect you’re looking for through design thinking, iterative loop and elimination of superfluities! Customer experience design supports product acceptance, turning early adopters into evangelists, and sets the fundation for brand values. Before the start-up has secured a business model, it will develop the largest use of its service: customer design is here for that.
- Collaborative platform and ecosystem are about building engagement, letting others build value on top of your platform, thinking innovation not only at the product level, but also shaping a creative extended business model: a leadership platform. Innovation management and entrepreneurship from now on take action to include customers, partners, competitors, and guide collective intelligence towards creative design.
To unleash cooperation and refine customer experience, entrepreneurs and innovators willingness to seek the truth is the triger.
One shares, when the other one sells
But innovators and entrepreneurs have different focus because their ultimate goals are separate:
- Innovator is focused on creative design: he handles continuous loop from concept to knowledge through experimentation, expanding both spaces simultaneously. Gilles Garel explains how the Swatch design and engineering team once initiated a new wrist watch concept, had to seek knowledge in the plasturgy field in order to manufacture it; once the plastic weld, the watch could not be repaired: they had to go to the concept space, imagining a “zero default” operating watch, adapting the watch architecture, reducing the number of components, removing after-sales service.
- Entrepreneur has to deal with a wider range of functions and tasks: one of those roles might well be innovator, others are surely about market and sell. As Zeke Camusio puts it: “They assume it’s possible so they shift their thinking from whether it can be done to HOW it can be done.” Marketing successfully your innovation requires a strong focus on go-to-market approach, stressing impact on one proeminent direction, perseveringly delivering faithful messages to a broad audience: customers, employees, partners, and shareholders. “Passion is really important, but you also need to make money”, so “entrepreneurs know their numbers (costs, revenues, break-even point, balance sheet and P&L) adds Zeke.
Both are disciplined in the methodology prevailing in their world. There is nothing like a look at Jack Dorsey’s agenda to prove it better: “All my days are themed. Monday is management. Tuesday is product, engineering, and design. Wednesday is marketing, growth, and communications. Thursday is partnership and developers. Friday is company and culture. It works in 24-hour blocks.”
When roads separate
In the long term, while innovators use continuous creation cycles to rise innovative design and craft acceptance, meeting social imagineries, entrepreneurs develop and grow a company. It entails a wide course of actions including acquisition and merger, globalisation, diversification, reputation actions, far away from innovation tasks.
“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled” as for HBS professor Howard Stevenson’s definition, goind beyond the boundaries of innovation.
Innovators design an identity for its innovation, turning novelty into tradition. Entrepreneurs shape a company’s identity.
Credits: cal.pnca.edu, courtesy companye, wineland.co.za
Nicolas Bry is a Senior VP at Orange. He’s developed strong expertise in innovation management, creating digital business units with international challenges. He completed a professional thesis on rapid innovation at HEC Business School.