There are many great posts on innovation over at Fast Company’s Blogjam. Like this one, where Jim Canterucci ponders whether innovation can both be top down or bottoms up.
Personally I believe that you need both. Obviously you cannot have innovation without innovative people in your company, but you could put a ton of innovative people in many companies and never have an innovation come out of it.
A minimum requirement for organizations to become truly innovative is to let their innovators connect and network across company boundaries and hierarchies. The problem is that hierarchies, layers of middle management, corporate cultures, and employee procedures are often time standing in the way of innovative people being able to turn organizations into innovative organizations.
New top management teams with a mandate to turn companies into innovative organizations may find that changing cultures in short order may be virtually impossible without braking a lot of glass – like getting rid of many intermediate layers.
Fortunately, and with some of the new web technologies (blogs, wikis, tagging, social networking tools, etc.) companies that want to change fast can do so by creating virtual networks of people that bypass the traditional company boundaries and hierarchies, and where if necessary, new rules of engagement may apply. For fairly large companies where it may take a long time to change adverse innovation cultures and practices, that may be the only way to go – creating a new parallel workplace. Of course, your physical organization could continue to stifle innovation – and you have to keep a watchful eye on that. But the advantage of moving the new rules into a parallel digital workplace is that it’s transparent.