Yesterday I took part at a nice event about innovation held at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. Quite interesting testimonials, expecially the Dallara CEO and his view of innovation as “being able to destroy our children" and The Electrolux “Open Innovation Experience”.
However, There was also a contribution that made me think how far some self-defining "Innovation Experts" are distant from grasping key mechanisms of it.
Beware who tells You MBAs are not fitting for innovation.
One of the Speakers blamed that MBAs are the cause of lack of innovation and companies’ failure to re-newate their business model. In his words, MBAs are those kind of people that, thinking linearly along well constructed best-practices, end-up filtering out innovation from their path. Almost as if innovation is not where you look for, but is “always” unexpected.
In his speech this expert classifies the rigorous management methodology learned at MBA classes as “Strategy”, opposing it to more randomized and adventurous behaviors proper of true “innovators”.
Dead wrong. This guy has completely missed at least a couple of points:
First: MBAs filter-in innovation, don’t filter-out innovation...
MBAs and their methodologies are those that bring innovation at your reach everyday.
They “filter-in” innovation.
When your company fights on one of the 4 Business Trajectories: ( Performance, Reliability, Convenience and Price ) You strongly need to innovate to race ahead of the pack. The MBA methodologies, skills and best practices are the one that grant your Company to find, select and finance the best ideas that let your offer beat the competition.
If your Company has already built its business model ( is running along one of the 4 business trajectories ) and the performance of the offer is still below customer expectation,- the MBA tool-kit is mandatory to survive and continue to innovate along that trajectory.
It is only after that you have surpassed Customer’s expectation that you need the ability to explore the world to find new ideas in order to jump from your business trajectory ( e.g. “Performance” to the next one ( e.g. “Reliability”)
In this moment MBAs models do not apply anymore. (and believe me: “luck” is still one of the key factors ). When you reach this point, more proper “Exploration” methodologies have to be used.
On my book I describe a few of them, borrowed from my friends at the ESA (European Space Agency ) where they are used to program the “Pathfinder”. (more on my Roadmap to Market Handbook )
Second: MBA’s tools have to be used at the right timing
Blaming MBAs for killing the “innovator spirit” may have a meaning in USA, where this false myth has born. But there, MBAs are the norm. In a country run by a “capitalistic” framework of laws, highly homogenized, and, in terms of business practices: ahead of the rest of the world a couple of decades, some shortsighted CEO may have thought that MBAs tools are the panacea, and that nothing else is needed.
Unfortunately, if misused, MBAs tools push your company along its current Business trajectory well above the Performance required by the Client, exposing it to disruptive innovations capable to bring customer’s attention on the offer made by new business trajectories. If you fail to recognize them you end up above the red line in a space where there are no customers.
BUT: this may be the case in USA, not in ITALY.
Here MBAs are profiles that are almost never present in a company. It is a profile that is not understood and therefore not used. And the reason is that most of our companies rely on fringe market niches, highly specialized, almost unique, and most of the time - temporary.
Here in Italy very few companies has the luxury to stay on the market long enough to experience all the 4 business trajectories. Not because the they fail to innovate, but because the market does not exist anymore.
So, is not the MBA model that fails, but the way is (not) used.
The real moment where MBA’s tools are useful for our micro, small, and medium sized companies is when they have found their business trajectory.
In other words: just after their innovative idea has been found.
In that moment, MBAs tools are a great support to consolidate, organize, fund, market and shelter from the incipient competition your baby-born idea.
If you are in that moment, go get an MBA, she may be your idea’s vitamin and booster.
In any case, whether you are running the race along a business trajectory, jumping from there to another one, or building your own new one, beware of pre-packaged solutions.
True innovators knows that along their journey,
they need to adapt to circumstances:
1) being able to interpret the signals of the environment, to understand the situation
2) and use the right tool at the right moment to make the most out of it
I hope this helps you put innovation in the right contest.
But I am always happy to learn from your point of view:
Just call me at +39 02 8719 8498 or drop me a line!
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