What the Dismissal of Jeffrey Immelt (GE) Tells us About the Limits of a Tactical Approach to Innovation

GE has just dismissed its CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, who has been in office for sixteen years. Despite considerable work in transforming the business, an ambitious innovation drive, and a big push on some hot topics such as the Internet of Things and sustainable “eco” development, which together seemed to represent the ideal transformation strategy, the results have been disappointing, and the company is now in the hands of activist investors who may soon be dismantling it. If GE has done what looks on paper like the ideal transformation program, and yet fails in the end, what lessons can we draw from its story for innovation and management in times of disruption in general?

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Disruptions: A Wrong Impression of Speed of Change

Everything is going faster! Change is accelerating! At least that’s what we hear all the time. What if this platitude reflected a misunderstanding of the nature of disruptions and how they develop? And what if, therefore, it led to the wrong answers by incumbents and startups? Let’s analyze the nature of disruptions and our relationship to time.

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Effectuation: How Entrepreneurs (Really) Think and Act

The entrepreneurial theory of effectuation was developed fifteen years ago, but it is only beginning to gain visibility outside academic circles. And it is all the better because it changes our way of seeing how entrepreneurs think and act in their creative process. Let’s review this in detail.
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Transformation: The Challenge of Changing the Business Model

The transformation of a business is a very complex operation, but it is even more difficult when it involves a change of business model. Let’s look at why, with a simple example, that of Microsoft Office for its transition from a model of license sale to a model of selling subscriptions.

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Innovation: Agility is Not What Your Organization Needs

We live in a world of uncertainty and disruptions. To survive in this world, organizations should be agile. The word Agility is now everywhere. This would be the miracle solution to lack of innovation as it emerges every six months. But this is not the case. Agility is not what your organization needs. Let’s see why.

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Transformation: No, you do not have an execution problem

It is a story repeated many times: “Our transformation strategy is perfectly clear. But we have a big execution problem” as the member of the executive committee of a large multinational was telling me a few weeks ago. He added: “Now, disruptions are coming from everywhere, we spend millions on transformation plans, we put ‘digital’ and ‘startup’ everywhere, and nothing – nothing! – happens.” Implicitly, of course, and soon very explicitly, the explanation fuses: it is down below that people are incapable! Managers ‘down below’ are not ‘aligned’, so goes the explanation. They do not know how to execute. Or worse: they are resisting change. We must identify the culprits, the traitors! The plan must be executed!

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The public decision-maker in the face of uncertainty: towards the technical democracy?

The development of uncertainty resulting from scientific and technical innovation is a particular challenge for the public decision-maker. The time when he could decide on a major program and impose it on the people is gone forever. As authority cannot be based on knowledge anymore, a new approach is needed that requires the involvement of the stakeholders to the decision.

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