Can You Really Manage Innovation?

Thinking traditionally, the concepts of managing and innovation can seem counterposed. Innovation needs open space, not managing. What if we turn that upside down and say that managing innovation is about both creating an environment conducive to innovation and good managing?

I think managing and innovation can coexist. It is about finding a balance between open space and managing your team’s progress. Start with values. Allow for values that foster innovation – such as freedom, no wrong answer, diversity and creative time. Continue values that foster good managing – such as frequent and clear communication, maintaining focus on goals and measures, accountability and collaboration. Articulate the balance of these values to and with your team. Create “structures” to foster them. Structures can include time for open space thinking, new processes for decision making, team training to  acclimate with these structures, team-developed measures for innovation.

Once your structures are in place, observe how they are working. Are you producing innovations? Is your larger organization supporting you? Are you innovating and managing well?