Early January I attended a presentation of an INSEAD professor, who had been advising Elon Musk on his innovation processes. The professor told us that Mr. Musk never hires MBAs and does not prefer experienced managers as these kinds of people are all trained on minimizing organizational risks so that the likelihood of reaching the companies’ objectives is maximized. Innovation on the other hand, requires other people who like taking risk, are accepting of failure and enjoy constantly learning.
This also requires a culture where different behaviors, like exploring new ideas or developing a long-term vision, should be encouraged. Being an MBA myself, I did not immediately like this story, but to be fair I think that the professor and Elon Musk have a valid point, as successful innovation in an existing organization proves to be difficult. KODAK is an example that is often mentioned and unfortunately there are many more….
At KEMA laboratories we try to foster laboratory innovation through “technical entrepreneurship” as much as possible. When we are not working on customers’ equipment we will be developing new measurement techniques. At the same time, many of our technical staff spend time in the working groups of the Electrical standard committees, to ensure that new standards are workable and will indeed ensure long term reliability and resilience of certified components.
If you are curious, please let us know, we are happy to help!