Sunday, November 30, 2008

Talent and Innovation

Truly innovative people are rare. Perhaps 5% or 10% of the high-potential managers within a company at any given time have the skills and attributes to become innovators. (Andrew England, the chief marketing officer at MillerCoors, believes the figure is actually closer to 1%.) But finding talent is not the only issue; a bigger problem is what to do with it.

Most companies do a magnificent job of smothering the creative spark. Over the past five years we have probed the innovation strategies of 25 organizations in multiple industries and countries. Our findings are simple and somewhat disturbing, given the acknowledged necessity for innovation: Companies usually develop leaders who replicate rather than innovate. Thus rising stars realize that to be promoted, they need to mirror incumbent leaders. Even when stellar external talent comes in, it is frequently drawn into the same anti-innovation culture that has been squelching internal talent.
That's from "Finding and Grooming Breakthrough Innovators" by Jeffrey Cohn, Jon Katzenbach, and Gus Vlak, in the most recent issue of the Harvard Business Review. The best part is that the article is available free online (HBR).

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