Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Creativity and disruptiveness in a borg company

This snippet from a book quoted in an article in the context of the reorganization we are undergoing in HP Labs really hits home:
In their last chapter, the authors concluded: 'Breakthroughs have come from creative teams that were ignored by their organizations, supported only belatedly by their organizations, misunderstood by their organizations, even assaulted by their organizations. Breakthroughs can emerge just as readily from no organization at all.'
I think *every* project I've worked on in HP and HP Labs since 1996 is summed up by that statement :-). It took me a while to come to terms with this, but now it actually energizes me to have a project in that position. If I'm not ignored, supported only belatedly, and not assaulted by my organization, I take it as a sign that I'm not being creative enough. Ironically the article's author, and I take it some in management, think this is a bug and not a feature. It's not for everyone, but it's how I've evolved to exist in a mega-corporation amidst its unrelenting homogenizing forces.

FYI, for more on the HP Labs reorg, read the whole article at: EETimes.com - Commentary: Will eHarmony work for R&D match-making?


Avi said...

(Don’t be) Fooled By Randomness

As humans, we got here by applying logic to the world around us. The earliest Neanderthal used cause and effect to understand and control his environment. It’s a superior tool when you have to compete for food and shelter with faster and stronger animals. However, after thousand of years of language and logic, our surroundings have changed a lot. Many things around us require a lot more than simple “cause and effect” logic to decipher.

Innovation at these levels requires a lot of randomness. Exactly when some corporate management team thinks they have all the people/tools/books/experience to generate the “next big thing” they learn that a bunch of fresh out of college kids with almost no funding and no experience beat them at their own game.

Organizing innovation is like playing Spin the Bottle, it doesn’t matter what your plans were at the start, expect to be surprised.

Sometimes it feels like our managers heard that Sir Isaac Newton “discovered” gravity when as apple fell on his head, so they are dropping paper on our heads to help us invent printers…

The scientific community is fully aware of the “Perspiration” part of innovation, the “Inspiration” part is not as well understood. How can you structure the unknown? What are the ingredients for that mysterious innovation recipe?

Allow for randomness; relax the rules, let creativity flourish. Perhaps play will produce more innovation than marching down a predefined path?

Andrew Fitzhugh said...

Steve Jurvetson has cited some great things about play on his blog or flickr stream, but I can't find the one post that I remember and particularly liked. This is close.