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The innovation solution. (WIP).

Nowadays, it seems, the standard operating procedure at many organizations is to take one look at the recessionary forces out there and then to dive into the nearest bunker, hoping that it will blow over. Less metaphorically, this translates into doing such things as cutting back on spending, which often means more than thrifting on paperclip purchases and reducing headcount. Programs are delayed or canceled. Memoranda are circulated that are full of Warnings from On High, not encouragement.

All of which means that people within the organization are about as motivated as a slacker on Quaaludes.

It would be folly to think that times aren't bad. But it is similarly off-kilter to imagine that things are going to get better for any given organization by having this bunker mentality. As Shira P. White writes in New Ideas About New Ideas: Insights on Creativity from the World's Leading Innovators (Perseus Publishing; 336 pp.; $26), "Innovative companies can build strength during slowdowns and downtimes and come out of them with broader product lines, stronger channels, greater share, and a bigger jump-start on recovery." Of course, it may be that you don't work for an innovative company. Which, truth be told, is the norm. The number of innovative companies is comparatively small. The number of those that are adequate is significantly higher. Indeed, the number that is sub par is probably greater, too.

One of the reasons why, perhaps, there are fewer innovative companies than there might be is that people tend not to look outside the boundaries of their own organizations (or even outside their own functions: e.g., the folks in product development might be doing some great things that the people in manufacturing engineering could learn a few things from). Especially now that company executives are intoning things about "Getting back to what made this company great," which essentially means "Doing what we've always known how to do," there is a tendency to want to keep one's head down.

But as White points out in her book, those who are creative are having a good time--and are making money by doing so. So what would you rather be doing: Something exhilarating or something mundane. Depending on how you answer that question, this book will be valuable to you. If you opt for the exhilarating, here are some good recommendations about how to do it. If you opt for the mundane, you can discover just what you're missing.

A disquieting note about this book, however. When she was working on the manuscript, Enron was still a darling company. Jeff Skilling was perceived to be an organizational and strategic genius. Books take a comparatively long time to get in print. Enron is used as an example of a firm that is an [H.sup.3]: hot, hip and happening. Consequently, one might be inclined to be a bit dubious about White's counsel. But note that Enron is just one of 32 companies or individuals detailed in the book's appendix. And you should have a grain of salt that's approximately 1/32 the size of any book that you read.
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Title Annotation:'New Ideas About New Ideas: Insights on Creativity from the World's Leading Innovators'
Author:Vasilash, Gary S.
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Previous Article:Non-critical thinking. (WIP).
Next Article:About work.

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