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Innovation Supersymmetry

Innovation Supersymmetry

| On 22, Jan 2008

Michael S. Slocum

A look into string theory from the field of physics will give us an interesting analogy to leverage. String theory is a method of reconciling the fact that general relativity as a theory only works if we ignore the implications of quantum mechanics and perceive the world in a purely classical sense. String theory is an attempt to resolve this discrepancy. String theories come in two flavors (not to be confused with the flavors of quarks). Strings are either closed or open and include or do not include fermions (particle that makes up matter). Supersymmetry is the string theory version that allows fermions to enter the theory as long as each fermion is coupled with a boson (particle that transmits a force). So supersymmetry relates the particles that transmit forces to the particles that make up matter. So for every particle of matter there is a force partner. The same is true in the field of innovation.

I have written previously about four significant aspects of a deployment (Race Cars and Corporations):

  • Culture
  • Infrastructure
  • Method and
  • Proficiency

If we now consider that these four aspects are material components of a successful innovation deployment we can add the forces responsible for each, thereby comprising a sort of supersymmetry. So let us discuss the force partners for the material components.

Culture: Culture is the ability to shape innovative behavior and practices on a widespread scale. The force partner for the proper formation of a culture conducive to a successful innovation deployment is the CEO of the organization. The tactical and strategic implications of systematic innovation create a need that can only be shaped by the senior strategist in the organization and this is the CEO. You could argue that Preservationary activities could be led by the COO but it is clearly the prevue of the CEO to shape the future (Evolutionary activities). So the innovation supersymmetry pair here is:

CEO/COO »» Culture

Infrastructure: Infrastructure is the technology and management supports that are necessary to grow and reinforce innovation. The force partner for the proper establishment of the infrastructure necessary to support an innovation deployment is a larger team than that listed for the cultural formation. Infrastructure has many components. Some of the key components are:

  1. Information Central for the Deployment (website etc)
  2. Job descriptions for deployment roles
  3. Integration with Strategy
  4. Internal Training and Consulting team
  5. Incentive Program
  6. Training Schedules
  7. Proficiency Requirements (and many others)

The formation of these items clearly necessitates the formation of a larger team. A senior executive reporting to the CEO would organize the effort and you could then probably assign this responsibility to a deployment manager (maybe a VP). Therefore, the establishment if infrastructure would be led by the VP of Innovation. So the innovation supersymmetry pair here is:

VP of Innovation »» Infrastructure

Method: Methodology is the standard roadmap for implementing innovation projects with a high probability of payoff. It is also the selection of tools and techniques that will be used to create a systematic approach to problem solving and concept generation. The VP of innovation will need to work with a team of internal and/or external experts to identify the composition of the method portfolio. The need to problem solve must be analyzed along with the need to create novel concepts. The methods selected must also integrate with existing methods like Six Sigma and/or Lean. So the innovation supersymmetry pair here is:

VP of Innovation/SMEs (internal and/or external) »» Method

Proficiency: Proficiency is the ability to ramp up world-class innovation capability in the shortest possible amount of time. Again, the leader of the deployment and the SMEs need to establish the criteria that will identify when the learning objectives have been met. A key criterion is being able to apply the methods to effect change and produce economic benefits. So the innovation supersymmetry pair here is:

VP of Innovation/SMEs (internal and/or external) »» Proficiency

Supersymmetry has more than one analog here. The application of systematic innovation as a deployment needs to focus on improving existing systems as well as producing new concepts for future revenue generation. This means that each aspect discussed above has two parts. This makes the activity more complex and amplifies the amount of planning needed prior to execution. It also reiterates the necessity of all the force transmitters identified above to work together in support of a common strategy that is set by the CEO.