Innovation According to Peter Drucker

Innovation according to Peter Drucker

Innovation is the buzzword among many companies operating internationally as well as in the domestic economy. Increasingly, the ability of an organization to innovate is being seen as a source of competitive advantage.

The well known management expert, Peter Drucker throws light on the “sources of innovation” as well as the role that management and the employees have to play in fostering a culture of innovation. For instance, there is a lively debate among experts as to whether innovation is a result of creativity or can be nurtured consciously. Drucker, as is wont, engages us in a nuanced view of innovation that he describes as a combination of inspiration and hard work.

Sources of Innovation

Continuing in the same vein, Drucker lists seven sources of innovation that range from the incidence of unexpected occurrences, incongruities and the role played by sustained focus on the objectives. Taken together, the points made by Drucker emphasize the multifaceted nature of innovation and the need to “incubate” and “ideate” newer ways of doing things.

Overall, Drucker likens the process of innovation to that of entrepreneurship where along with the attendant risks; there is also the satisfaction of “creating” something new by a conscious and focused approach towards knowledge and the intellectual pursuit by learning organizations. To summarize Drucker’s thoughts on innovation, it would be pertinent to note that unless organizations bridge the “ingenuity gap”, they would be left behind in the uber competitive marketplace of the 21st century.

Case Study of 3M Organization

Applying some of the concepts that were discussed in the class to the 3M organization and its efforts to become a “thought leader”, we find that the nature of the work environment that has been fostered at 3M plays a major role in the organizations innovation efforts as well as the other factors like the ambidextrous nature of the organizational efforts that combine the traditional hierarchy with a conscious effort at “all levels” to promote the emergence of new ideas and encourage innovation.

3M follows a policy of “tacit” knowledge management that encourages the employees to innovate and share ideas and knowledge bypassing the bureaucratic and formal organizational structures. The net result is that 3M excels at blending creativity with rigor leading to “synergies” that accrue in this process.

3M’s flexible organizational structure and “open” culture makes it possible for the employees at all levels to think out of the box and innovate with the result that the organization files record numbers of patents every year.

The strategy employed by 3M follows Drucker’s maxim of management commitment combined with individual creativity. It is this potent combination where top management actively encourages innovation and the employees respond because the organizational arteries are relatively free from “clogging” and hence ideas flow through the company unhindered. As the class discussion shows, there is always a creative tension between systematic development and encouraged creativity. It is to 3M’s credit that it strikes a healthy balance between these imperatives and emerges as a hub of innovation. In conclusion, it is evident that innovation cannot be left to the employees alone nor can it be “directed” from above. Only when organizations succeed in balancing these imperatives can they truly innovate.

Ingenuity, Innovation, and Invention

Turning to the three concepts of ingenuity, innovation, and invention, we find that ingenuity refers to the creative ways of doing things which can or cannot lead to innovation. This is because whereas ingenuity means creative solutions to problems, it cannot guarantee innovation as long as the environmental forces that encourage innovation are present. Indeed, the above case study of 3M clearly indicates that there needs to be an organizational culture that supports innovation for ingenuity to transform into innovation. For example, a particular employee might be ingenious but in the absence of encouragement and support, he or she would not be able to innovate or find creative solutions to work problems.

On the other hand, invention refers to the actual output or the outcome of innovation wherein the end result is a new product or a new invention that can be patented or copyrighted.

Indeed, whereas innovation is a better and new way of doing things, invention is the transformation of innovation into a tangible product or process that can be patented and deemed as being truly path-breaking. Therefore, the three terms can be taken to mean that ingenuity leads to innovation which in turn leads to invention.


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