Learning curve: Management innovation

If you are the sort of boss who rejects new ideas, then management innovation might not be your thing.

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Last Updated: 07 Dec 2010

What is it?

Without fresh approaches and techniques we are doomed to ever diminishing returns. Great innovators in management - Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, for example - dare to do things differently (in their case 'management by walking around'). They get away from narrow-minded ideas about the lazy workforce which needs to be controlled. Instead they set people free to perform at their best.

Where did it come from?

In the early 20th century, Frederick Taylor's 'scientific management' was the first attempt to codify what management should be about. He sought the 'one best way' of doing things, an innovation Henry Ford drew inspiration from. But, as the century wore on, smart managers realised employees were becoming better educated and were capable of more. Total Quality Management was based on the idea that an empowered workforce could continuously improve products and services. Today, Google tries to set staff free from management altogether, urging them to spend 10% or more of their time experimenting with their own ideas.

Where is it going?

Gary Hamel, the management guru, is banging the drum for management innovation on a new website, managementexchange.com. He says managers need to be ambitious and find some 'moon shots', ie big dreams for the 21st century. Peter Shaw, a seasoned partner with consultants Praesta, says management innovation holds the key to business recovery. 'The most successful leaders are open to radical thinking about the way that things are done,' he says. What have you got to lose by trying something new?

Fad quotient: Eight, but inching (centimetring?) up.

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