Who's the Best at Innovating Innovation?

Harvard Business Review

Most companies put innovation at the top of their agendas. But how many devote the energy and resources it takes to build innovation into the values, processes, and practices that rule everyday activity and behavior? Not many, as we argued when we launched the Innovating Innovation Challenge in October.

That disconnect isn't due to lack of human ingenuity or resources; it's actually the result of organizational DNA. Productivity, predictability, and alignment are embedded in the marrow of our management systems. Experimentation, risk-taking, and variety are the enemy of the efficiency machine that is the modern corporation. Of course, it's variety and the daring to be different that produces game-changing innovation.

So how do we make every management process a catalyst, rather than a wet blanket, for innovation? And, importantly, how do we make innovation a true core competence? While we didn't expect to find many organizations that had woven innovation into every element of their management model, we did hope to discover individuals and teams making real progress on important pieces of the puzzle.

After a few months, 140 superb contributions, and 24 finalists, we've zeroed in on a set of winning entries that represent some of the world's most daring and comprehensive approaches to making innovation an everyday, everywhere capability.

Today, we're delighted to announce the 10 winners of the Innovating Innovation Challenge, the first leg of this year's HBR/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation.

In alphabetical order:

Managing for 21st Century Crime Prevention in Memphis
by Toney Armstrong, Memphis Police Department

An inspiring story of transformation from a traditional bureaucracy to a vibrant innovation culture in which the insights and observations of every individual from edge to edge not only matter, but produce immediate impact and make the organization continuously smarter.

Democratizing Entrepreneurship: Village Capital's Peer Selection Model
by Ross Baird, Village Capital

An exciting and powerful model for cultivating, evaluating, funding, and growing new ideas — and a detailed recipe for unleashing the power of peer review in any organization.

Case Coelce — Inspiring Innovation for Traditional Work Environments
by Luiz De Gonzaga Coelho Junior, co-authored by Odailton Arruda, Coelce

An honest and human account (dead ends and all) of developing a continuous innovation capability in an electricity distributor in the poorest region in Brazil.

Fail Forward
by Ashley Good, Engineers Without Borders Canada

The "Failure Report" is a refreshing and bold practice that takes the tired mantra of "embracing failure" and turns it into a way of life for an organization — and a provocative invitation to all of its partners.

Sustainability as Innovation Strategy: How Sustainability and Innovation Drive Each Other and Company Competitiveness at Danone
by Monica Kruglianskas, Danone, co-authored by Marc Vilanova, ESADE Business School

This story unpacks Danone's singular approach to embedding sustainability in its innovation agenda and innovation in its approach to sustainability. A case study in how to bring values to life, unleash the spirit of experimentation, and scale new ideas and practices.

Democratize Innovation — For Sustained Innovation Culture
by Lalgudi Ramanathan Natarajan, Titan Industries

A multiplex approach to layering in innovation capabilities from the shop floor up in India's largest jewelry and watch retailer. The Titan story is a down-to-earth account of true social innovation — both in terms of the process and the result.

Whirlpool's Innovation Journey: An On-Going Quest for a Rock-Solid and Inescapable Innovation Capability
by Moises Norena, Whirlpool, co-authored by JD Rapp

The state of the art when it comes to developing innovation as a core competence. Whirlpool changed its organizational DNA to embrace innovation at the deepest level and unpacks the journey in generous detail here.

Unleashing Inclusive Innovation at Cisco
by Kate O'Keeffe, co-authored by John Marsland, Carlos Pignataro and Lisa Voss, Cisco

A thorough and instructive account of working every lever and animating an entire organization — from the bottom up and the top down — to embrace innovation.

Project Bushfire — Focusing the Might of an Entire Organization on the Consumer & Customer
by Stephen Remedios, The Stephen Remedios Company, co-authored by Aswath Venkataraman, Sandeep Ramesh, Shruti Kashyap and Shashwat Sharma, Hindustan Unilever

A compelling, homegrown practice for jolting a vast organization into tight communion with the marketplace — and a recipe for seeing around corners, energizing every last person in the company, and closing the gaps between "sense" and "respond."

Is Managed Innovation an Oxymoron?
by Kumar Sachidanandam, Cognizant

A comprehensive and illuminating story of how one organization tackled the über challenge of building innovation into its management model — with powerful insights on wrestling with the right big questions.

Congratulations to all of the winners and the organizations behind them! We'll be unpacking many of these stories and others from the Innovating Innovation Challenge here in the weeks to come. In the meantime, stay tuned for the launch of the second leg of the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize here in early March.

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