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10 Best Articles on Innovation from HBR

Harvard Business Review (HBR) has many good articles from thought leaders on the topic of innovation. The following list is 10 of our favorites. One thing to note is that you get four posts each month you can read for free. If you register by providing your email address, you get a precious fifteen free articles every month if you’re a subscriber. Every month, I carefully curate a list of HBR articles that I want to read from their Twitter feed (generally a great way to identify their best materials) and I pick fifteen articles I want to read for the month.

If you want to dig into their posts on innovation, here is the best way to use up ten of those fifteen free articles:

    • Collective Genius – Bill Coughran, VP of Engineering for Google from 2003 to 2011, was tasked with building the infrastructure to support Google’s massive growth. There was nowhere else to turn to because no one else was doing this or dealing with this kind of growth. His challenge was to build the next-generation system and then the next one and the one after that. To accomplish this, Coughran knew that he could not just set a vision and motivate others to follow it. He had to create a community that is willing and able to generate new ideas. This post dives into how he and other leaders accomplished this.
    • Leadership May Not be the Problem With Your Innovation Team – HBR completed a survey to understand how organizations create conditions that favor successful innovation. About 1,500 people completed the assessment, representing organizations across industries at different stages of maturity. Despite enormous attention placed on improving innovation effectiveness, 80% of participants thought their companies were underperforming on this front. While respondents did note some gaps in leadership effectiveness, they were more likely to highlight opportunities for their team members to improve.
    • To Make Money with Digital, Be an Innovator – Not a Strategist – Digital technology is bringing disruption to the doorsteps of many businesses. As a result, digital transformation has become a key strategy for many organizations. Two professors from BYU’s Marriot School of Management point out the three “traps” that strategists frequently fall into and explain why having a more avant-garde approach can help manage the increasing uncertainty of today’s digital world.
    • The Capitalist’s Dilemma – Perhaps the most influential thought leader on innovation, Clayton Christensen (author of The Innovator’s Dilemma) worked on this a study with 150 students and alumni of the Harvard Business School to go behind the scenes and dissect what it is that’s preventing large profitable companies from investing in ideas. The authors then present four solutions that could help these organizations conquer what they call the “capitalist’s dilemma.”
    • Want to do Corporate Innovation Right? Go Inside Google Brain – There is no one thing that makes Google different in terms of standing out as an innovator. And that’s by design. It doesn’t rely on any one innovation strategy but deploys a number of them to create an intricate, but powerful, innovation ecosystem that seems to roll out innovations by the dozens.
    • Don’t Offer Employees Big Rewards for Innovation Harvard Business Review tackles the reasons behind why high-powered rewards are no greater of an incentive than lower rewards when it comes to game-changing innovations. The authors then offer a remedy to receiving far too few—or far too many—ideas.
    • Build an Innovation Engine in Ninety Days – The authors of this post offer a four-tiered approach to building a thriving and momentum gathering innovation engine beginning with defining innovation buckets to creating a mechanism to ensure the completion of projects. The article then ventures into the next steps your organization can take to get to the next level.
    • The Discipline of Innovation – HBR revisits the wisdom of renowned business guru Peter Drucker, who argues that the best innovative business ideas are most likely to come about when seven distinct areas of opportunity are analyzed and exploited in a timely fashion. Drucker concludes that while talent, ingenuity, and knowledge are key elements to innovation, if persistence, diligence, and commitment are nowhere to be seen, then innovation efforts will fail.
    • The Innovator’s DNA HBR shares their findings of a six-year study which observed the habits of twenty-five innovative entrepreneurs, three thousand executives, and five hundred individuals who have invented new products or started groundbreaking companies of their own.
    • Don’t Ask for New Ideas If You’re Not Ready to Act on Them For some organizations, ideation and innovation are a problem. For others, asking for new, fresh ideas can generate an overwhelming response—one which is so overwhelming it takes the organization too long to act on any of them. The author outlines three key lessons that can be learned from asking for too many ideas too soon, and how companies can best manage the ideation and innovation process.

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