By Anders Drejer & Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius

Sometimes you need “Gazza” at the controls

In 1997 the England National Team flew to Italy for a football match. On that plane was Manchester United hardman Paul “Da Gov’nor” Ince and infamous troublemaker Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne. At some point, “Gazza” was invited to the cockpit to greet the pilots. While he was in there, the plane experienced sudden turbulence, and Ince, notoriously afraid of flying, allegedly yelled in terror, “Oh no, it’s Gazza at the controls!”

Organisations need to be able to manage their current set of businesses effectively while at the same time finding and developing new business ideas and models – this is, the thinking behind innovation. In short, we have a new concept that encompasses both a desirable result in dealing with the new competitive landscape – i.e. proactive repositioning of the organisation and development of new businesses – and the process by which the result is reached – a managerial process that is an alternative to the traditional, analytical process of management. Gazza at the controls.

What is innovation – Gazza at the controls?

Innovation, delivering valuable change at the societal level answers is a testimony to the “why” of innovation, which is clearly important. However, if we want to know what innovation is, we need to look at it at the organisational level. Twenty-five years of experience (the authors) in the field allows us to offer and compare some seminar the following definitions on innovation at the organisational level. A few examples:

  • The act of starting something for the first time; introducing something new
  • The conception, early adoption and implementation of significant new services, ideas or ways of doing things as government policy in order to improve or reform services, ideas and ways of doing things
  • Strategic innovation is a life-saver for planning in dynamic and turbulent environments, a middle-road between deliberate planning and experimental learning that requires synergy between thinking and acting. Strategic innovation is an outside-in approach, and it is value-driven, synthetic rather than analytical, and heuristic rather than procedural. It also requires lateral thinking
  • The creativity and innovation to break the rules in order to attain a competitive advantage
  • The rethinking of the basis of competition for any company in any industry. Particularly new business models and breaking through traditional boundaries to create new market space.

As can be seen from the table there is no general agreement as to the definition of innovation, and there is a quite broad and incoherent array of conceptualisations of what innovation means and entails. There are consequently a number of different metaphorical labels of strategic innovations that talk about “styles” (fashion), “architectures” (design), “corporate DNAs” (biology), “strategic frontiers” or “blue oceans” (geography), “engines of action” (mechanics), “new games” (sports), “choice of new weapons” (military), “revolutionary strategy” (politics), “break-through strategy” (physics) and so forth.

Consider this: Which definition serves your organisation’s needs right now?

And what about Gazza? And the controls?

What stands out, however, is that all organisations from time to time need to turn off the autopilot of strategic planning and metaphorically put Gazza at the controls, even if this may feel chaotic and frightening. Innovation requires an entirely different modus operandi from strategic planning as it requires creativity to come up with new ideas, courage to rethink and break accepted rules for competition, conceptualisation to create new business models and connectivity to new sources of competencies and customers.

What we know from our studies of corporate failure is that organisations that do not engage in activities of innovation and business development will eventually fail – fail in the long run, that is. We also know that organisations that are not effective in their present operations and business model will fail in the short run. So, Gazza should not be at the controls all the time.

Successful management is a balance between planning/analysis, execution and innovation/creativity. Mind you, when a new business model is formulated the model has to be implemented successfully. This will require market analysis, budgeting and the entire toolbox of strategic planning.

Kaospilot Publishing launches a journal aimed at disseminating research, ideas and opinions about innovation and related fields. This piece is out is by Anders Drejer and Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius. It speaks to the fundamental need of renewal and development.

Also available through Spiro School of Business -The Innovation Series

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