HBR October 2013


Imagine my delight when I received my monthly HBR and saw “The Radical Innovation Playbook” displayed on the cover. There were two great articles/sections in this issue, one entitled “Putting the Breakthrough Back Into Innovation” and the other “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption”.

In “Putting the Breakthrough Back into Innovation”, HBR explores the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the use of Corporate Venturing. These topics were both explored in the context of how to make repeatable and sustainable innovation within corporations. Without spoiling the article (which I highly suggest you download), DARPA has been able to overcome the age old issue of balancing risk with disruption understanding that by taking a low risk approach you rarely get a high reward innovation. They assemble “task teams” of high performers from a variety of fields, and often on a contract basis, to solve tough and ambitious problems in a fairly autonomous manner. Many companies have tried to simulate this approach but to limited success, the “formula” and key success factors within the article lay out why DARPA has been able to consistently replicate disruption with their innovations. In terms of Corporate Venturing the explore the use of VCs and how they can help companies rapidly respond to outside pressures that fall outside the core company’s area of expertise. The article explores how to successfully set up an internal VC function and how to ensure the organization does not bog down the agile nature needed by the VC group. I have seen more and more corporations adopt this approach to finding new capabilities and technologies but often struggle with the execution, the success factors laid out in the article are good ones to follow.

The article “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption” definitely sparked my interest the most as I currently work for one of the firms mentioned in the article. Following the release of this article I have been a number of conversations about the findings and have seen people take fairly strong sides to the opinion presented. In essence, the article argues that new forces are changing the ways consulting companies operate and these firms are beginning to explore new service models. An interesting note in the article mentioned that when talking to key leaders in the industry they were very quick to dismiss the need of such disruption and state that the status-quo would remain. I find this interesting as this belief is a characteristic of most industries that don’t keep up and end-up being disrupted. I definitely see the lines between software and services and integration within the client’s business (i.e. Joint Service Development) being needed to keep the industry afloat. Whether services need to go broader, more niche, upstream or downstream there are changes that clients are requesting as more players enter into the market with unique service offerings (take IDEO’s or McKinsey’s new software offerings or GEs new service offerings). There is definitely a need for the consulting firms to do some innovation consulting/design thinking to differentiate their positions in the broader ecosystem.

In conclusion, great issue this month and one I would highly suggest purchasing!


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