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Strategic Innovation and Executive Leadership from #FEI14

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Michael Tushman just presented at Front End of Innovation conference last week on 'Strategic Innovation and Executive Leadership' that went straight to the heart of the dilemma many companies face. How to balance executing on today's business with the need to create tomorrow's business, and do it all without missing earnings that cause Wall Street to get upset.

As industry after industry is disrupted, Tushman took us inside the thinking of one company ' Havas, an advertising agency in France ' that is facing the crowdsourcing revolution on it's industry. One senior leader who spoke seemed to get the nature of the disruption, the other, almost comically, did not. Showing a headline from a business publication 'What's gone wrong at HP' Tushman noted that it's not a lack of quality engineers, it's 'what's going on with the leadership team.' He further noted that Harvard University itself is in the cusp of a disruption in the way education is delivered, but didn't further elaborate on how its process of innovation was benefiting from his research and avoiding the coming revolution's fallout on its business model.

Tushman's solution is to encourage organizations to become ambidextrous. To execute and 'exploit' efficiencies in today's business, and to form special teams and processes to explore tomorrow's business. 'Once leaders and their teams get it, this is not rocket science,' he argued.'Successful firms get caught by inertia' but it doesn't have to lead to a Blackberry Moment.

Although Tushman's presentation favored classing examples from the 70s and yesteryear, he did allude to emerging tools like crowdsourcing and companies like Innocentive (that bring together problem solvers and big problems organizations need to solve but can't without help).

Most firms move to exploration when they are stuck. But proactively building in 'exploratory capabilities' is key, and often runs up against 'politics.'  Had Tushman had more time, I for one would have enjoyed his taking us behind the scenes into the political dynamics of top teams, and give us a view of how the various actors cope with these issues for better or worse.


Robert B. Tucker is president of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group, and the author, most recently, of Innovation is Everybody's Business (Wiley and Sons). Details: rtucker@innovationresource.com

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