1. Innovation WITHIN an Organisation - the relationship between 'mainstream' people and activities

By its nature, innovation involves change, discomfort and risk. Innovation is often 'disruptive'. Innovation creates winners - but often losers too. Within an organisation, further chasms arise:

1.1 Crossing the chasm between 'innovators' and 'mainstream' people

There are often deeply-embedded differences in values and culture between people with different educational and professional backgrounds. This requires work to understand and harness the differences; and to apply approaches and tools which promote and support effective communication and collaboration.

1.2 Crossing the chasm between 'innovation' and 'mainstream' operations

Because innovation often requires highly-specialised skills and dedicated time, it has typically been separated from the mainstream business. Historically, in-house 'R&D' functions and venture teams often developed into enclaves with distinct cultures and processes. Meanwhile, the rest of the business often focused on short-term 'mainstream' issues. These arrangements might have worked in the past, but are no longer appropriate.

Indeed, rigid operational separation will block the kind of innovation needed today if it:

  • Creates obstacles to external access to knowledge and technology ('not-invented-here').
  • Reduces sensitivity to emerging market requirements.
  • May produce a stream of inventions and patents but be much less successful in producing innovations to excite markets and propel the business forward.
  • Creates obstacles to fast, efficient product development (e.g. transfer into manufacturing and scale-up).
  • Denies space for types of innovation that might not involve traditionally-recognised research disciplines (e.g. radically new processes or ways of doing business).


Crossing this chasm requires imaginative new organisational models and ways of working:

  • Specific innovation opportunities are best realised by interdisciplinary and well-connected 'venture teams' (going well beyond the R&D functions).
  • Less tangible, emerging opportunities are often best progressed by 'Structured Networks' for innovation.

1.3 Crossing the chasm between 'innovation' and 'mainstream' measures

It is right to gear processes and measures to the different outcomes expected from functions such as manufacturing and research. The risk of creating 'silos', albeit unwittingly, can be avoided by ensuring coherence across organisational units when designing processes and measures. There can be surprising opportunities for learning between units (e.g. transplanting manufacturing 'change control' processes into early-stage R&D, or R&D brainstorming processes into manufacturing).