But fortunes are made, and industry titans are built, where management isn’t really looking, almost always. The big pieces of innovation come out of garages and low-rent offices in lousy locations, and they’re produced by small groups without much management backing. It can be done at big companies (the business personal computer at IBM, Java at Sun) but then it’s always in an off-the-mainstream skunkworks. Nobody—I repeat, nobody—is smart enough to predict where the next big strategic innovation is going to come from. So if you “narrow your innovation focus”, you’re almost guaranteed to miss it. The best approach, I think, is a combination of conscious focused incremental innovation—kaizen—combined with a structure that’s loose enough that when someone wants to hide in a corner and try something crazy, you don’t get in the way too much.
My team has yet to deliver on our name, but with Magnum P.I. code names, an active WIKI, a great coffee shop across the street (J Cafe), a celebration of brains, dissent, decisions, stoofs, and quirkiness I think we are on our way.