Also, organizational rigidities tend to grow over time. To deal with the increasing complexity and demands of dynamic markets, and to capture ever more wealth-creation opportunities, firms tend to add additional functions, councils, processes, values, and norms onto existing organizations. Only seldom do firms eliminate older organizational constructs that have become obsolete—older processes, older functions, or older committees. As a consequence, layers of new constructs are added onto older ones, making firms bureaucratic, inward-oriented, and slow in adapting to changes in the market.
Sometimes, but only sometimes, firms resist the aging process. Such firms adapt and thrive in dynamic markets; they are serial innovators; they continuously reinvent themselves; they change their industries. By continuously inventing new products and services that make life healthier, better, and safer—they change the world. These firms create value for decades, sometimes longer, for their customers, their shareholders, and their employees.
Organizations that want to become serial innovators must do the following:
- Cultivate the organizations members’ desire to make a difference.
- Build a team of learners at the top.
- Frame the organization’s vision and strategy positively.
- Build on self-managed performance cells.
- Promote the organization’s members’ drive to perform and grow.
- Invest in capabilities to quickly develop new assets and skills.
- Cultivate a culture that fosters execution and promotes challenge.
Most importantly, Serial Innovators are driven by the passion to make a difference. And they experiment a lot. Therefore, when circumstances change, they’re much faster than other organizations to build new capabilities and skills. Serial innovators conquer the rigidities that stifle business growth.
Claudio Feser, author of Serial Innovators: Firms That Change The World (Wiley), is a Director of McKinsey & Company, where he leads the McKinsey CEO Network that focuses on CEO training and coaching. Feser previously managed McKinsey offices in Switzerland and Greece.
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