Middle Managers and Innovation?

Is the one of the biggest innovation barriers in corporate world today – the way to convince middle managers to contribute in innovation?

Jeffrey Phillips, in his book Relentless Innovation defines this problem with following:

“In a world where so many factors are in flux, middle managers count on business as usual as a reliable, trustworthy way to get work done efficiently and effectively and they are therefore avid defenders of the model, often rejecting innovation.”

In the process of establishing Innovation Culture or during Innovation Campaigns there are many question which can come from middle managers such as:

  • “We run our daily business and don’t have time for new ideas.”
  • “How can you convince me that this idea will get us ahead of competitors?”
  • “The risk of failing is too high and we cannot avoid ourselves to lose time.”
  • “We need only improvements of our good-selling product.”
  • “I can’t see how new idea can influence our daily work as we work upon customer wishes.”
  • Even worse is when there is simply no answer.

Middle Managers and Innovation?So, how to convince them to become innovation evangelists?

Innovation must be promoted from the top levels. There should be clear Innovation Strategy and it must be pointed out that without new products/ideas there will be no (bright) future. Success stories are the best weapon, as this is the way to bring the arguments. There is no better way to show the importance of innovation, then showing realized examples inside the company or the ones done by competitors.

Middle managers could be in the center of Innovation activities, like decision makers in Innovation Process or presenters on the Ideation Workshops or even starters of Innovation Campaigns. Once they are on the “side of Innovation”, company is on the way to have realized innovations-products and to start a powerful innovation machine out of already established innovation process.

image credit: Tomislav Buljubasic; convercent.com

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Barriers to Innovative CultureTomislav Buljubasic is an Innovation Manager and writer from Croatia, focusing on creativity, innovation culture and process. Author of Unleash Your Creativity App. He can be followed on twitter @buljubasict

Tomislav Buljubasic

Tomislav Buljubasic is innovation manager and writer interested in creativity and innovation process. He runs 7innovation.net. Follow @buljubasict




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No Comments

  1. Guido Beyss on July 21, 2013 at 11:30 am

    The truth is grey – There are more alternatives like black and white in this world.
    The topic of innovation contra productivity is not easy to solve. On the one hand, organizations rely on the trust that their processes run most efficiently and effectively. The middle management is the one, whose task is to manage exactly this operational business as smart as possible. So it is good that this middle management is critical to all “disturbing issues” versus the well established ones. In recent years, we have learned the hard way that creativity is not always good, especially if we talk about “creative accounting”.
    On the other hand, the author’s question is right: how to be innovative and how to overcome the hurdles for innovative ideas? Only top management is able to overcome the conflict by setting strict and ambitious targets on the one side and to force the organization to allow mistakes and become a learning one on the other side.

  2. Ishwara Bhat on September 6, 2013 at 7:26 am

    The primary job of middle management is to hold the fort.i.e. to manage the operations effectively. I have been part of R&D middle management. Here the conflicting goals come.
    Incremental innovations come with some effort. But the radical ones are difficult. Bigger challenge is monetizing. It is the job of marketing and sales.
    This confusion of roles and expectations have become expensive for R&D service organizations. I have the thoughts in this series https://midmanager.com/series/indian-it-growth-innovation-crisis/

    For effective innovation only authentic way is to provide a startup-like environment. https://midmanager.com/growth-crisis-of-indian-it-innovation-management-entrepreneurship-intrapreneurship-rd-centers-technology-service-providers/

  3. Steveo on October 3, 2013 at 3:40 am

    Do you want to help us with our innovation management research?

    We are taking a look at how people innovate and would like as much feedback as we can https://hunchbuzz.com/buzz/innovation-management/

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