March 2011 | Nano Tools | Innovation
Contributors: Christian Terwiesch, Andrew M. Heller Professor, Professor of Operations and Information Management; and Karl Ulrich, CIBC Professor, Professor of Operations and Information Management, and Vice Dean of Innovation at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Create and select exceptional opportunities for innovation.
Companies with a structured, professional approach to innovation are rare. Most do a great job managing processes like recruiting and sales training, but view innovation as a creative process that’s shrouded in mystery. As a result, money is often thrown at mediocre projects with the hope that some luck will enter in and make them successful. Organizations seeking exceptional opportunities for innovation must instead employ a very process-driven approach to drive innovation.
An innovation tournament is one such approach. Like its counterpart in sports, this is a structured, multi-round competition. Based on the Darwinian principle of the “survival of the fittest,” it systematically elicits a large number of innovation opportunities (the contestants) and selects a handful of exceptional ones (the winners). An organization’s first tournament should take the form of an innovation workshop, which introduces the key ideas of tournaments to participants while creating an appetite for future competitions. It also can result in some exceptional innovation opportunities.
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, Director of Innovative Learning Solutions at Wharton Executive Education. It is jointly sponsored by Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, Wharton Professor of Management Michael Useem, Director. Nano Tools Academic Director, Professor Adam Grant.
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