Grant McCracken has a great post about the difficulties that corporations have with scanning for non-incremental innovation. His thoughts build on the recent HBS article about fringe scanning which I blogged about here.
In seeking a solution to stopping the organisation getting blinded, he suggests :
…the creation of an observation platform from which we can keep an eye out for the next new things. In keeping with our Tsunami references, let’s call it a wheelhouse, a conning tower, or a ship’s bridge.
The trick would be to find 5 or 6 really smart, well educated, well informed, well connected, deeply curious, utterly practical people. These qualifications create a tiny Venn intersection, but, hey, we only need 5 or 6 people.
I once worked as part of team for an online bank in London doing exactly what Grant suggested. It was fascinating work, but it was also the first place that the CFO looked for making cuts when the company went into a retrenchment phase. The people that left at that time went on to create some fascinating new business, like zopa.
In cutting back the team that looked for early signs of new business ideas, they also cut back their source of new revenue from potentially disruptive ideas.
Do the words “shot” and “foot” spring to mind?
Footnote – in the comments to Grants post, there’s an eye popping quote (by Tom Guarriello) from Chris Anderson (Wired editor) at Pop!Tech : “I do whatever my intern tells me. If s/he tells me to run a story about X, I do, even if I don’t get it.”