Chris Trimble, co-author of Beyond the Idea: How to Execute Innovation in Any Organization, describes three models for executing innovation initiatives.
“Organizations get in trouble when they don’t understand the limits of Model R. There are two sharp constraints. You are limited to the people you already have, and you are limited to the way they are currently organized. When Hasbro launched a new video game venture, it made the wise move of creating a new team from scratch, bringing in software engineers and video game experts. That kind of step is absolutely necessary—and often overlooked.
“The only alternative to Models S and R is Model C, which is the most difficult of the three models, but also the most robust. Few companies, if any, are consistently good at it, even those that show up on the ‘Most Innovative Companies of the Year’ lists. Many companies struggle to build effective teams. They imagine that the right answer is to either execute with the people in place or to build a completely separate team, but the right answer is the middle ground—a partnership between one group that works full time and another who works part time on the innovation initiative. Beyond the Idea prescribes exactly how to make this model work.”
What’s the main mistake that companies make when they select a model?
“They overlook Model C, instead imagining that any innovation initiative can be tackled with the more familiar models, R and S. The main challenge of Model C is that it requires a dedicated team. This can feel expensive, and it creates a challenging organizational dynamic, starting with questions about team membership (such as ‘Why didn’t I get picked for the team?’).”
Do you have any advice for CIOs?
“IT organizations are designed around projects. My advice is to put a step in the approval process that asks, ‘Can we execute this project with the team we have, organized the way they are currently organized?’ For most projects, the answer is yes. But for those that are not, Model C is essential, and it demands a different approach and much more managerial attention.”
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