Innovation paradox: entrepreneurship versus the power of the corporate staff departments

International researches (as from 2006 up to and including most recent) indicates from that the members of the Council of Governing Board continue consider Innovation as the way to growth increase and secure continuity. The Credit Crisis hardly change anything in these thoughts.

The Top 3 most significant challenges for Innovation still remains: successful organizing innovation, increasing the speed of go-to-market and proving the profitability of innovation. Therefore, it is not a matter of new ideas but the realization of those ideas. In my opinion, the reason for this problem is caused by the phenomenon of:

The law of the Organization Gravitation.

The Organization Gravitation is the (economic and cultural) strength which prohibits organizational boarders to adapt to new ideas.

The key drivers behind this strength is the need of people to maximize continuity of their current status and maximizing security. If a critical mass of people in an organization sharing this need is reached, then they will be prepared to give up their individual freedom (free-thinking, experimenting, freedom of speech) for security provided by the organization.
This way company rules, control mechanisms, technocracy and bureaucracy occurs. The aim of company’s technocratic staff departments and corporate centers is carrying out the control and maintain the rules: watch-dogging the company’s status quo. And then the organization gravitation is born.

In practice the Organization Gravitation has proven not be a constant but dependent. As the new idea is proportionally more radical (further outside the existing frameworks of the organization) the organization gravitation will increase. As the outside world becomes more unsafe the organization gravitation will increase proportionally. As the lack of vision and leadership is stronger the organization gravitation will increase.

In practice we see beautiful examples of this law and its developments.
Radical innovation within the existing limits of large organization appears to be difficult. Dr. Axel Rosenø describes in the presentation “Developing Radical Innovation Capabilities in Established Firms” the tensions between the existing organization and radical innovation. Philips has chosen to spin out many innovations in order to avoid the Organization Gravitation (see also Henry Chesbrough and open innovation).
The insecurity in the outside world has increased enormously by the Credit Crunch. As a result, the (corporate) rules have increased enormously. We see a strong tendency of centralizing the power to the corporate centers with the aim far-reaching standardization, shared service centers and cost cutting projects. Nearly every organization starts to behaves as a herd animal: in search of the security and surviving in the herd. But now is the moment to step outside the herd and act anti-cyclics. Again in the world of first class innovation the example comes from discounter Ryanair: not in spite of, but thanks to the economic crisis we are able to manage significant discount for the purchase of new, better planes (Michael O’Leary, the director of Ryanair). Examples of lack of vision and leadership are not only restricted to the businesses but also in politics this is not an exception. Although Obama and Merkel give it a fair try.

If the Organization Gravitation has reached a certain scope a so-called Organization Black Hole is born: an organization with maximum closed borders and internal autism for renewal and entrepreneurship. The attraction of the Organization Gravitation is so strong that escaping becomes impossible is. Only a terrible impact (bankruptcy or take-over) can break open the borders. By then Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs probably have left the organization already.