Innovation

Money, promiscuous partnering and 'intrapreneurs'

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Innovation is tied to spending, but not in the way one might think.

"There is no statistical correlation between performance and spend," said Rob Shelton, Price Waterhouse Cooper’s global lead for innovation strategy. And the number one motivator for breakthrough innovations, he said, is recognition, not money.

"Breakthrough innovators want to change the world, and they want recognition that they helped to do it," Shelton said. "Making sure they get that recognition is absolutely essential."

Shelton, who is also the co-author of "Making Innovation Work: How to Measure it, Manage It and Profit from It," ran a June 12 ACT-IAC seminar on innovation in large organizations. (FCW was ACT-IAC's media partner for this event.) He stressed that the model for breakthrough innovation isn't cookie cutter; managers need to know what motivates their employees and also how to use their resources in an agile and solutions-based way. And while a basic level of investment is of course required, the real trick is knowing where to spend, not how much.

Shelton encouraged leaders to look within their agency for the resources they already have, and identify -- or develop -- intrapreneurs. An intrapreneur, he said, is someone with entrepreneurial skills who also understands the organization -- someone who knows the mission, customer needs and can “manage ignorance” within the agency.

Also critical is the ability to collaborate with a wide range of outside partners -- and managers must break down the model of "we have to do it ourselves." Shelton pointed to DARPA as an agency that cultivates a vast ecosystem that fosters innovation -- partnering with universities, academia and technology companies to produce some of government’s most famous innovations.

"The leaders have strategic partners and spend a lot of time working with them," Shelton said. "There are a billion IQ points outside your organization you can tap into."

Agencies -- and most private-sector firms -- tend to overemphasize incremental innovation, Shelton said, as opposed to breakthrough and radical innovation. And blanket innovation across an organization is not a prescription for success. Successful innovation, he stressed, requires thoughtfulness and selectiveness.

"Pay attention to how much you're trying to do, as well as what you're trying to do," Shelton said.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a staff writer covering big data, cloud computing and the federal workforce. Connect with her on Twitter: @ColbyAnn.

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