The why, what, and how of management innovation

Harv Bus Rev. 2006 Feb;84(2):72-84, 163.


For organizations like GE, P&G, and Visa, management innovation is the secret to success. But what is management innovation? Why is it so important? And how can other companies learn to become management innovators? This article from expert Gary Hamel answers those questions. A management breakthrough can deliver a strong advantage to the innovating company and produce a major shift in industry leadership. Few companies, however, have been able to come up with a formal process for fostering management innovation. The biggest challenge seems to be generating truly unique ideas. Four components can help: a big problem that demands fresh thinking, creative principles or paradigms that can reveal new approaches, an evaluation of the conventions that constrain novel thinking, and examples and analogies that help redefine what can be done. No doubt there are existing management processes in your organization that exacerbate the big problems you're hoping to solve. So how can you learn to identify them? Start by asking a series of questions for each one. For instance, Who owns the process? What are its objectives? What are the metrics for success? What are the decision-making criteria? How are decisions communicated, and to whom? After documenting these details, ask the people involved with the process to weigh in. This exploration may reveal opportunities to reinventyour management processes. A management innovation, the author says, creates long-lasting advantage when it meets at least one of three conditions: It is based on a novel principle that challenges the orthodoxy; it is systemic, involving a range of processes and methods; or it is part of a program of invention, where progress compounds over time. So far, management in this century isn't much different from management in the previous one, says Hamel. Therein lies the opportunity. You can wait for a competitor to come upon the next great management process and drive you out of business-or you can become a management innovator right now.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / organization & administration*
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Economic Competition
  • Humans
  • Organizational Innovation
  • United States