Inspiration: – Easy Innovation?

Posted on 27/06/2011


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Creating an innovative group of people is easy but expensive – that was the main point of a talk I heard the other day. Since innovation is usually thought to be difficult – why, after all, would we hire consultants to do it all the time – I think that the statement deserves further thought. The speaker was PhD-candidate Vaughn Tan of Harvard Business School, who does sociological research on highly innovative work groups; currently at high-end restaurants like the Danish Noma. Since in today’s haute cuisine there is a constant pressure to innovate, how do they create a group that will spawn new ideas continuously?

The reason that innovation then is expensive begins with the hiring process. According to Vaughn, innovative groups do not form if people are hired through a process where the seemingly best candidate for the job impresses in tests and interviews and thus selected accordingly. Rather Vaughn suggested that people enter the group through a process he calls “negotiated joining”, meaning simply that the candidate is given responsibility and works with the group for a lengthy period of time (like 2-3 months) before actually getting hired. This helps defining roles, clarifying mutual expectations and loosens up the work flows because it requires a flexible mentality and approach to the work. This is an expensive process, but pays off well according to Vaughn. Indeed, some of the worlds top restaurants work in this way.

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Posted in: Inspiration