Success = People + Ideas – Control ?


The Wall Street Journal published an article (http://tinyurl.com/unicycles) on May 19th on Google’s attempt to apply mathematical algorithms to prevent brain drain of its 20,000+ large workforce. The approach is a good representation of the misconception between innovation and idea management, which I am often faced with when consulting clients on the difference. I have in my previous blog posts described my views on both thus refer to them for details.

People as input into a mathematic algorithm

Brain drain is often the result from a misaligned human resource management strategy between the business strategy vis-á-vis the organization (people). By applying a mathematical algorithm to a HRM issue, the risk Google runs is to distance itself from the issue itself: that Google has successfully grown into a large company, where the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit has more difficult conditions to survive.

Question: can an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit and curiosity be defined by mathematics?

Ideas as input into an innovation management process

While idea management is an integral part of the innovation management process, the two are very different in nature. Innovation management is a rational, left-side brain process, which lend itself to structure, measurement and steering. The highly used stage-gate model is a perfect example of the rational understanding, underlying the innovation process. Idea management on the other hand is a creative, right-side brain process, which does not lend itself to traditional structures, measurements and steering. If the purpose is an innovation scope leaning towards the radical side, the idea management process should be perceived as governing a controlled chaos.
Controlled chaos is when only the boundaries are known and controlled, but the inside is allowed to be unstructured and unpredictable. To ensure progress, the characteristics of the ideas within the process are used to determine the boundaries permitted for the single idea i.e. radical ideas should be permitted more flexible boundaries than incremental ideas.

Question: should ideas be controlled and if so, when in the innovation management process?

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