Category: Innovation

Simple Rules: A new book by strategy expert Donald Sull

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 days ago

Simple Rules small

The world is highly complex, and we struggle to manage the complexity of it every day. Most os us accept this complexity as unavoidable, attempting to manage the complex systems we face with complicated solutions. But meeting complexity with complexity can create more confusion than it resolves. So how can people better manage the complexity inherent in the modern world?

Donald Sull, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, swears by simple rules, whether in his personal life or in helping companies he consults with make better decisions. His latest book, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, co-authored with Stanford University's Kathleen Eisenhardt, aims to help more people put these simple rules in practice.

A decade ago, in the course of studying why certain high-tech companies thrived during the internet boom, the authors discovered something surprising: To shape their high-level strategies, companies like Intel and Cisco relied not on complicated frameworks but on simple--and quite specific--rules of thumb. The simple rules these companies had mapped out in order to manage complex processes helped them make on-the-spot decisions, adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. All this even though they were in extraordinarily complex, challenging, and fast-moving industries.

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The path to new ideas: Tinkering, testing, and Play-Doh

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 21 days ago

Play-Doh 2

Previous posts in our series on innovation* surveyed four of the five skills found in some of the worlds most innovative executives: Observation, associating, questioning, and networking. In this final post in the series, we’re sharing insights on experimenting--the final discovery skill that perhaps best differentiates innovators from non-innovators.

The argument that innovators are experimenters is certainly not new. According to Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and co-author of The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovatorsit's the ways in which they experiment, however, that sets them apart. The innovators in his ongoing research--including founder entrepreneurs and CEOs at the most innovative companies in the world--often generate their best ideas when engaged in one of these three approaches to experimentation:

  1. Trying out new experiences through exploration (think Steve Jobs at an ashram in India)
  2. Taking things apart, either physically or intellectually
  3. Testing ideas through pilots and prototypes

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Networking your way to innovation

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 28 days ago

Networking. It's a word that evokes very different reactions among us. Love it or hate it, you probably associate networking with making your way up the ladder, developing relationships, and expanding your contacts. But if you don't associate it with innovation and breakthrough ideas, then you're missing out on perhaps the greatest opportunity networking can provide.

According to Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and co-author of The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovatorsinnovation requires radically different points of viewAs we outlined in previous posts in this series,* innovators have a unique and practiced set of skills that help them acquire these out-of-the-box ways of thinking. Unlike typical delivery-driven executives who network to access resources, innovators driven by discoveryThey devote time and energy to finding and testing ideas through a network of diverse individuals. They go out of their way to meet with people of different backgrounds and perspectives to extend their own knowledge and get new ideas. Networking is a critical skill not only for generating new ideas but also for mobilizing the resources to launch new ventures.

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MIT in Asia: Two new collaborations

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 28 days ago

MIT brings REAP to Singapore

The regions selected for the third year of MIT's Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP) include Singapore, the first Asian country to participate in REAP.

REAP is a multi-year program designed to help regions promote economic development and job creation by teaching participants how to implement a more robust, innovation-based entrepreneurial ecosystem. The program was created in part to address the concerns of organizations that want to emulate the entrepreneurial spirit encompassed by MIT.

"Singapore has a great opportunity to really build its entrepreneurial capacity and to build innovation-driven businesses," said Fiona Murray, Associate Dean for Innovation and the Co-Director of the MIT Innovation Initiative. Singapore has doubled the number of startups in its country, from 24,000 in 2005 to 55,000 in 2014.

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Observation changes the game

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 11 days ago


What sets truly disruptive innovators apart? According to Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and co-author of The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, innovators have a special set of skills that help them create value-generating ideas. Observation is one of those skills, and one that engages multiple senses. The observations innovators make spark questions that, and as we covered in our previous post on this topic, can challenge common wisdom. Innovators carefully watch the world around them, and they connect common threads among unconnected data. They are keenly aware of what doesn't work and innovate uncommon business ideas to solve them. 

For innovators, this observation skill is always turned on. For the rest of us, it's an untapped resource.

Developing your skills of observation

So what does Gregersen's research tell us about improving our own ability to observe, and turning those observations into value? He suggests the following tips for developing this important skill:

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Getting answers with catalytic questioning

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 2 days ago

Stuck on a problem? Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and co-author of The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, suggests solving vexing challenges through thoughtful questioning. His 4-24 project challenges us to set aside four minutes every day to ask nothing but questions--an exercise that can help us see problems from new perspectives.

In his decade's worth of research into the source of disruptive innovations, Gregersen found that questioning is how innovators do their work—it's the catalyst for other "discovery behaviors" that make up an "innovator's DNA," such as observing, networking, and experimenting. Innovators ask a lot of questions to better understand what is and what might be. They ignore safe questions and go right for the crazy ones--the questions that can question common wisdom and can even disrupt an entire industry.

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Innovation by association

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 9 days ago

The Innovators DNA book

Ever wondered how some of the world's greatest innovators came across their breakthrough ideas? According to Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and co-author of The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, the following skills are at the root of most value-generating ideas: Associating; catalytic questioning; deep observation; diverse networking; and rapid experimentation.

Each week on the innovation@work blog, we'll define and contextualize each of the "discovery skills" that Gregersen identifies as part of the innovator's DNA.

Discovery skill #1: Associating as the basis of thinking differently

Innovative ideas flourish at the intersection of diverse experience, whether it be others' or our own. You've likely heard of the "Medici effect," a phrase used to describe the spark that occurs in a geographic space or market where a combination of novel ideas coalesce into something quite surprising. This effect occurred in Islamic and Italian renaissances, for example, and in places like Silicon Valley. It also forms the basis of ideas conferences like TED--places where diverse people join together in a conscious attempt to cross-pollinate their ideas and perspectives.

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Why platforms beat products every time

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 23 days ago


Is the product business model broken? According to Professor Marshall Van Alstyne, Research Associate with the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, and moderator of the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium panel, "Platform Shift: How New Business Models are Changing the Shape of Industry and the Role of CIOs," the answer is definitely yes

Case in point: BlackBerry. While there remain some holdouts relying on their BlackBerrys, the numbers don't lie: in 2009, BlackBerry had nearly 50% market share in U.S. operating systems, and now the company has 2.1% market share.

On the other hand, in 2013, 14 of the top 30 global brands by market capitalization were platform-oriented companies. These are companies that have created and now dominate areas in which buyers, sellers, and third parties are connected. In addition to the platform-oriented brands listed in the chart below, standout platform companies include Uber and Airbnb. They've each created innovative and disruptive business models that have drastically changed how consumers (and now businesses) secure transportation and lodging. (Read our previous posts related to Uber and Airbnb.)

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