types of unintentional innovation assassins.

1. The Cowboy. Itching to create a corporate culture tolerant of creativity and innovation, the Cowboy says something along the lines of, “No boundaries! Just great ideas!” Of course, companies should continually evaluate and push their boundaries. But every company has a set of things it simply will not do. Saying innovation has no bounds when it does just leads people to waste time working on ideas that — honestly — have no hope of ever being commercialized.

Instead, consider issuing highly-focused challenges. For example, a few years ago Netflix offered a $1 million prize to any team that could improve the performance of the algorithms that determine which movies it should suggest to consumers by at least 10%. More than 250 teams rose to the challenge, and two actually exceeded the target. Focus is one of innovation’s best friends.

2. The Googlephile. Inspired by stories of how Google and 3M ask engineers to spend 15% of their time dreaming of new ideas, this executive asks everybody to spend a bit of time on innovation. Maybe carve off a half-day during the third Friday of the month for everyone to focus on innovation.This approach feels participatory and inclusive. But it rarely works, unless the company has sophisticated systems to select and nurture ideas. Too frequently these efforts lead to a long list of suggestions that never get implemented. Cynicism takes hold quickly, and more and more employees find excuses to miss Innovation Friday.

As an alternative, executives should ask a small number of people to spend a significant amount of time on innovation. Remember, most start-ups fail — even with entrepreneurs spending every minute of every day obsessively focusing on their business. One person spending all of his or her time on innovation often trumps 1,000 spending 10% of their time on it. The math doesn’t work — except for when it does.

3. The Astronaut. This executive invokes the United States’ ultimately successful effort to put a man on the moon by urging, “We need something big, people! What is our moon shot?” It’s great to think big, of course, but pushing for big ideas often leads to proposals with sink-the-company risk (remember Motorola’s Iridium?). That risk means that the idea must be carefully studied, and since it hasn’t been done before, it probably won’t withstand analytical scrutiny. The push-for-moon shots too often mean innovation efforts never even get to the launch pad.

Instead of shooting for the moon, executives should encourage what author Peter Sims calls “little bets.” Academics and entrepreneurs agree that the very best ideas emerge out of a process of trial-and-error experimentation. Hang up posters of Thomas Edison with his famous line, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Start sweating.

4. The Pirate. This swashbuckler says, “We don’t have a fixed budget for innovation — but we don’t need one. We find the money when we need it.” While that statement sounds entrepreneurial, it can make the innovator’s life a nightmare because it signals a lack of clear rules for obtaining resources.This often means endless meetings with a varying cast of stakeholders. No one quite says yes, and no one quite says no, either.

The best companies manage innovation in a disciplined manner. They have dedicated budgets for it, with clear rules for how to obtain funding. While many leaders think this kind of disciplined approach is anathema to innovation, it actually enables it…

Think the annual arts fest in the Nevada desert is nothing more than a week-long bacchanal? Think again. It’s a a master class in how to create awesomeness.

It’s easy to dismiss Burning Man as nothing more than a bizarre hippie love-fest that takes place deep in the Nevada desert every year the week before Labor Day. But doing so misses the fact that it’s an amazingly successful enterprise—and, as such, has a thing or two to teach about how to inspire creative people and create a great product.

Since it first began 25 years ago, Burning Man has grown larger every year (if you ignore the slight dip in recession-scarred 2009). It’s grown so much that this year, for the first time ever, the organization had to cut off ticket sales early, for fear of finally hitting the 50,000-person limit authorized by its federal land-use permit. And those tickets aren’t cheap either—they now cost an average of $300 a pop.

Granted, Burning Man’s overall intention is not to create a “product,” per se. (Not one for trite labels, it calls itself an “experiment in community.”) But its growth numbers—in terms of customers and revenue—are ones any business could envy. So how does Burning Man do it?

OCCUPY WALL STREET is not only a mass protest movement intended to draw attention to economic injustice and political corruption. It seeks to embody and thereby to demonstrate the feasibility of certain ideals of participatory democracy. This is, to my mind, what makes OWS so interesting, and so unlike a tea-party protest. OWS is not simply a group of like-minded people gathered together to make a point with a show of collective force, though it is that. The difference is that it has developed into an ongoing micro-society with a micro-government that directly exemplifies a principled alternative to the prevailing American order. The complaint that OWS has failed to produce a coherent list of demands seems to me to miss much of the point of the encampment in Zuccotti Park. The demand is a society more like the little one OWS protestors have mocked up in the park. The mode of governance is the message …

There is a great deal wrong with American governance, and not only within government. I think that the concentrated management and diffuse ownership of public corporations has left a relatively small numbers of corporate managers with insufficiently checked control over trillions of other people’s property. And I think that the relatively unchecked power of government to make or break fortunes has made it more or less inevitable that corporations would in time end up writing their own regulations to their own advantage. Occupy Wall Street is a great boon to the extent that it helps draw attention and build effective opposition to the unjust mechanisms of upward redistribution and to the many flaws in our political economy responsible for the disproportionate influence of the wealthy and powerful over the rules that profoundly affect us all. However, insofar as OWS is meant to persuade Americans to adopt a wholly different and better way to live with one another, it is bound to fail. Even if consensus-based, leaderless participatory democracy could work on a grand scale, Americans aren’t interested. And face it: sooner or later, Brookfield Properties is going to get it’s park back. So for those deeply committed to realising a lasting community governed by the ideals of OWS, let me recommend a seastead.

In the weeks since the Entrepreneurial Revolution article appeared in HBR, government leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, NGO directors, heads of institutes, university professors, and foundations have been asking me to help them instigate a revolution. Here is my advice to all of you on how to get started in just six months.

  1. Revolutions start local
  2. Revolutions need participants 
  3. Revolutions require resources …
  4. Revolutions need revolutionaries 
  5. Revolutions need a call to action …
  6. Revolutions need an inner council …
  7. …  revolutions need leadership …

Today, people with power and influence derive their power from their centrality within self-organizing networks that might or might not correspond to any plan on the part of designated leaders. Organization structure in vanguard companies involves multi-directional responsibilities, with an increasing emphasis on horizontal relationships rather than vertical reporting as the center of action that shapes daily tasks and one’s portfolio of projects, in order to focus on serving customers and society. Circles of influence replace chains of command, as in the councils and boards at Cisco which draw from many levels to drive new strategies. Distributed leadership — consisting of many ears to the ground in many places — is more effective than centralized or concentrated leadership. Fewer people act as power-holders monopolizing information or decision-making, and more people serve as integrators using relationships and persuasion to get things done.

This changes the nature of career success. It is not enough to be technically adept or even to be interpersonally pleasant. Power goes to the “connectors”: those people who actively seek relationships and then serve as bridges between and among groups. Their personal contacts are often as important as their formal assignment. In essence, “She who has the best network wins.”

… John Maeda … [a]ddressing the challenge of “Open Source Administration” … expounded on his philosophies of humanizing technology through social medias, specifically focusing on his own efforts to create more communal and creative networks in his present role as president of RSID. If you could get past the microphone echo, Maeda’s talk, as usual, was perfectly simple, refreshing and human. Reminding us that “electrons move at the speed of light, [people] don’t”, he touched on his implementation of internal blogs and digital message boards for the RSID community, the importance of finding “authenticity” within large organizations, and the realization that he had evolved from a “CEO” to a “moderator” at RSID…

Earlier this year at the Davos World Economic Forum, I met a president from an Ivy League institution who said to me, “Hey, I know you. You’re the president who blogs.” He asked how it was going, and I talked about my experiments with external blogs, internal anonymous blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other “open-source” platforms as a means to increase transparency. He smiled and said, “That’s never going to work. But hey, if it works, other presidents will be doing it too I’m sure. But we’re waiting to see what happens with you first.”

After my first year of blogging, I can report both success (with those constituents who chose to engage the medium) and failure (with those who did not and ended up further distanced). However, I have learned one very important lesson: transparency and clarity are two completely different things, and in many cases complete clarity should be a leader’s goal rather than complete transparency.