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Innovation Is Too Essential for Businesses to Be Precious About
Innovation is not a romantic pursuit. The best disruptions happen on the front lines, not the sequestered labs of research and development departments.
Roger Martin is the Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship at the Rotman School of Management and the Premier’s Chair in Productivity & Competitiveness. From 1998 to 2013, he served as Dean. Previously, he spent 13 years as a Director of Monitor Company, a global strategy consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he served as co-head of the firm for two years. His research work is in Integrative Thinking, Business Design, Strategy, Corporate Social Responsibility and Country Competitiveness. He writes extensively and is a regular contributor to: Harvard Business Review’s The Conversation blog, the Financial Times’ Judgment Call column, and the Guardian Sustainable Business. He has written 23 Harvard Business Review articles and published 10 books: Getting Beyond Better (with Sally Osberg); Playing to Win (with A.G. Lafley) ; Fixing the Game; The Design of Business; The Opposable Mind; The Responsibility Virus; Canada: What It Is, What It Can Be (with Jim Milway); andDiaminds (with Mihnea Moldoveanu, and The Future of the MBA (with Mihnea Moldoveanu). In addition, he co-edited Rotman on Design (with Karen Christensen. In 2013, Roger placed 3rd on the Thinkers50 list, a biannual ranking of the most influential global business thinkers, moving up from 6th in 2011 and 32nd in 2009. In 2010, he was named one of the 27 most influential designers in the world by Business Week. In 2007 he was named a Business Week 'B-School All-Star' for being one of the 10 most influential business professors in the world. Business Week also named him one of seven 'Innovation Gurus' in 2005.He serves on a number of public service boards: Skoll Foundation, Canadian Credit Management Foundation, Tennis Canada (past chair), and Bridgespan Group (academic advisory board chair). A Canadian from Wallenstein, Ontario, Roger received his AB from Harvard College, with a concentration in Economics, in 1979 and his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1981.
Roger Martin is the Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship at the Rotman School of Management and the Premier’s Chair in Productivity & Competitiveness. From 1998 to 2013, he served as Dean. Previously, he spent 13 years as a Director of Monitor Company, a global strategy consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he served as co-head of the firm for two years.
His research work is in Integrative Thinking, Business Design, Strategy, Corporate Social Responsibility and Country Competitiveness. He writes extensively and is a regular contributor to: Harvard Business Review’s The Conversation blog, the Financial Times’ Judgment Call column, and the Guardian Sustainable Business. He has written 23 Harvard Business Review articles and published 10 books: Getting Beyond Better (with Sally Osberg); Playing to Win (with A.G. Lafley) ; Fixing the Game; The Design of Business; The Opposable Mind; The Responsibility Virus; Canada: What It Is, What It Can Be (with Jim Milway); andDiaminds (with Mihnea Moldoveanu, and The Future of the MBA (with Mihnea Moldoveanu). In addition, he co-edited Rotman on Design (with Karen Christensen.
In 2013, Roger placed 3rd on the Thinkers50 list, a biannual ranking of the most influential global business thinkers, moving up from 6th in 2011 and 32nd in 2009. In 2010, he was named one of the 27 most influential designers in the world by Business Week. In 2007 he was named a Business Week 'B-School All-Star' for being one of the 10 most influential business professors in the world. Business Week also named him one of seven 'Innovation Gurus' in 2005.He serves on a number of public service boards: Skoll Foundation, Canadian Credit Management Foundation, Tennis Canada (past chair), and Bridgespan Group (academic advisory board chair). A Canadian from Wallenstein, Ontario, Roger received his AB from Harvard College, with a concentration in Economics, in 1979 and his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1981.
Roger Martin: Design thinking in my view is the productive combination of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking that enables you to both exploit to the maximum what currently exists while exploring new things to invent the future so that you have both reliability, a consistent enough outcome that keeps you going and validity. You're pursuing great things that are wonderful for users that enable you to invent the future not invented by somebody else and imposed on you. So it's that combination, the middle ground between the extremes of pure analytical thinking and pure intuitive thinking.
A big topic in innovation is the skunk work. And it's a big topic because there's a question, and the great Clay Christiansen friend of mine, great scholar in some sense raised the profile of this question by asking the question when you're dealing with a disruptive technology you want to disrupt yourself in particular, can you do it in the main mainstream part of the organization or do you have to have it off in a skunkworks, by which is meant that this organization is outside the mainstream organization and in some sense protected from the main stream organization so they can work away and work away and come up with something? And Steve Jobs famously created a skunk works to do the Apple Mac development.
It's an area where I'm not convinced. I'm not as convinced as my friend Clay, although he might be right because he's super smart, I'm not as convinced that that is the optimal design. Because I've seen too many cases where when it comes out of the skunkworks it gets killed. So the purported functionality if you will of the skunkworks, which is protection, actually makes the need for protection greater. So there's a feeling in the mainstream organization that those people over in the skunk works got to play by different rules, didn't have to have the same rigor that we would've had to and now they're taking their thing that came out of it and thinking that they can just give it over to us and we'll welcome it with open arms. No, in fact we're going to hate it because it's the product of in some sense a privileged system. We'd love to have that system but we can't it's only the skunk works.
If you really want to be an innovative company and make innovation sustainable and not just this incidental thing that happens every once in a while in a skunk works, you just got to train the whole organization to think both analytically and intuitively to both figure out how to be good at exploitation and exploration, set up your systems so that they don't stifle that and make the entire organization an organization about innovation. That it's an organization that thinks about innovation while it's thinking about exploitation.
People think that innovation comes from R&D departments. That's another way of hiving it off those R&D people innovate. It shouldn't be. The key people, a key source of innovation in and well functioning company should be the sales force. The sales force are going to spend one way or another more time with the customers than anybody else. The people who are closest to the customer have got to be involved in innovation otherwise you're going to waste your time on innovations that seem cool for the producer but aren't awesomely needed by the user. Anybody can be innovative and if you hive off innovation and put it elsewhere I don't think it's great for the organization.
Innovation is no longer the crown jewel of large companies that can afford to fund research and development departments. The pace of technological change, and its democratizing effects, require organizations of all sizes to continually innovate. Even if the product or service on offer is successful, companies must work to disrupt their own gains. If they don't, those gains will be short-lived, says Roger Martin, former Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
How organizations successfully innovate is frequently the focus of Martin's attention, and here he addresses the research and development initiatives that operate outside the boundaries of day-to-day company activity. Called "skunkworks," these departments are factories of creativity and innovation that focus on exploring new possibilities, unburdened by the rigors of market requirements and efficiencies. Steve Jobs famously created a skunkworks to develop the Mac, and research and development departments are another manifestation of sequestered innovation, says Martin.
Ultimately what is needed is an innovative organization, not just an innovative department. Martin has seen many products emerge from skunkworks only to be killed by their parent organization for being pie-in-the-sky and untethered from larger organizational goals. How then does an organization become innovative such that it focuses on both innovating new ideas while exploiting current products? By listening to front-line employees, says Martin.
An organization's sales force, or other point-of-contact employees, holds the key to innovating in a way that is responsive to customer behavior. They will have more familiarity with how a given product is actually used than a room of designers locked away in a skunkworks. The result is a win not just for hardworking frontline workers over pretentious design departments, but a win for the organization as a whole as it requires a reevaluation of what constitutes innovation: simultaneous exploration and exploitation.
Roger Martin's most recent book is Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.
- Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
- Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
- The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
These new status behaviours are what one expert calls 'inconspicuous consumption'.