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Innovation: What Business School Didn’t Teach You

Popularity of business degrees has surged over the past 40 years. But having an MBA isn’t the same as having the vision and creativity to take a company forward in today’s uncertain world, say innovation and leadership gurus Jeff Dyer and Nathan Furr, authors of the soon-to-be-released“The Innovator’s Method: Bringing the Lean Startup into Your Organization” (Harvard Business Review Press, Sept. 2014)

It’s not that MBAs are no longer relevant, Dyer and Furr explain in their Forbes’ article, “Why Being a Good Manager Can Make You a Bad Innovator.” In today’s unpredictable world, however, it’s no longer enough to be a good manager. Instead, leaders must know when to trade business school methodologies for innovation school thinking – and understand exactly what this entails.

It’s a progressive perspective that merits serious attention. This year’s just-released ranking of the world’s “Most Innovative Companies” – an annual list published by Forbes and researched by Dyer, Furr and Hal Gregerson, MIT Sloan School of Management professor and co-author of “The Innovator’s DNA” (with Dyer and Clayton Christensen) – reveals less than 50 of the 526 global, public companies analyzed were successful in increasing their innovation capabilities over the past year. The correlation may be less about the industry they’re in and more about the company – and culture – they keep.

Consider Cisco. A decade ago, the company was at the top of its innovation game with launches of new products for routing communications among computer networks. During the height of its growth, Cisco turned to business schools to hire management resources, subsequently plummeting out of the top 100 “Most Innovative Companies” in 2011.

According to Dyer and Furr, “[MBAs] excel at planning, analyzing and optimizing – skills business schools teach that are critical to scaling and managing an existing business. But what they aren’t taught in business school is how to create a customer.”

It’s something at which Marc Benioff excels. The Salesforce.com founder harnesses his company’s entrepreneurial foundation and encourages employees to do the same, essentially fostering the same flexibility as a start-up. It’s no surprise the company continues to be among the “innovation stars” – ranking number one on the “Most Innovative Companies” list for the fourth year in a row – due to its ongoing creative growth.

To learn more about the brands topping this year’s list of “Most Innovative Companies” – and how to raise your own company’s innovation capabilities – visit Forbes online. Additional tools and insights surrounding “The Innovator’s Method” can also be found at http://learn.theinnovatorsmethod.com/.