How Long Will It Take?

I’ve been cleaning out my file cabinets to get ready for an upcoming move to a new building.  Buried in a long-forgotten file folder, I found a 1999 “Innovation Survey” by Price Waterhouse Coopers.  Many readers of my blog already know that just about every consulting firm now publishes an annual innovation survey; the best known are Boston Consulting Group (published in connection with Business Week magazine) and Booz Allen Hamilton (published in their own magazine, Strategy+Business).  The amazing thing about the 1999 PWC report is that it is right on the money.  Remember my blog posting from last week, about Gary Hamel’s “Inventing the Future of Innovation” conference?  Just about every recommendation that we came up with was already in this 1999 report.  Here’s a sampling:

* The critical role of knowledge management in gathering, discussing, and disseminating new ideas from both inside and outside the firm

* Innovation can’t be limited to a separate group, like an R&D lab; it has to be everyone’s responsibility and be built into everyday ways of working

* Diverse teams generate better ideas

* The most critical element of an innovative culture is trust between people that will enable them to share ideas freely

* Survey respondents fall into two management styles: managed (planned, systemic) and open (radical, discontinous initiatives that have no obvious connection with past successes; balancing the consensual and the anarchic).  Of the top 20% of performers in their survey, 75% displayed the open style; of the top 5%, all displayed the open style.

If you’ve read my book GROUP GENIUS, you know that I wasn’t surprised by any of this.  But what is surprising is that this knowledge has been around for so long, for at least ten years, and the majority of companies still aren’t paying attention.  If we all get together in ten more years for another “future of management” conference, it would be pretty depressing if nothing in the corporate world has changed.

Expert consultants to the report included: Mark Brown and Dominic Swords of Henley Management College; Scott Isaksen, Brian Dorval, and Ken Lauer of the Creative Problem Solving Group at Buffalo; Gerard Puccio of the Center for Studies in Creativity; and Chris Dewberry of Birkbeck College.  The report originated in the U.K. and has a distinctly U.K. flavor (or “flavour”?) but the findings are valid in every region.