Category Archives: innovation

How mental models block innovation: The case of Alzheimer’s disease

No progress has been made to cure Alzheimer’s disease since it was first discovered in 1906. Why? Not for lack of investment, but because doctors remain stuck in wrong mental models.

Continue reading

Should you encourage your employees to take risk to innovate?

General management’s injunction to employees to take more risks to innovate usually has no effect. This is because what blocks innovation is not lack of risk taking but counter-productive mental models.

Continue reading

Assessing the Potential of ChatGPT: Lessons from the History of Innovation

[Version in French here]

Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the past few weeks, you couldn’t escape news about ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence tool that answers all your questions: summarizing an article, informing you about the economic crisis, writing a poem, etc. As with any new technology, it is presented as revolutionary by some and futile, useless, or even dangerous by others. While it will take time for the dust to settle, we can nevertheless avoid some of the pitfalls, and above all, the clear-cut positions, by relying on the history of innovation, which offers at least seven lessons for a more nuanced approach to the debate.

Continue reading

Is Meta the new Kodak? Eight history lessons on the necessity and risks of big innovation bets

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is doing badly. The announcement of its poor results was very badly received by the stock market. The company lost 25% of its value in one day. The weakness of Facebook and the doubts about the relevance of the colossal investment made in the metaverse, a system creating a virtual world, question the strategy of the company. The weakness of the legacy activity, and the difficulty to launch a new activity, the situation of Meta is not unlike that of Kodak twenty years ago. A look at the history of the major bets made by companies to launch or renew themselves is useful to better understand the issues facing Meta and avoid hasty judgments.

Continue reading

Innovation: why the distinction between exploration and exploitation is problematic

In the field of innovation, the distinction between exploration and exploitation is universal. It is clear, it seems obvious, and it has become gospel in the world of innovation. Yet it is counter-productive, as it rests on questionable assumptions. It illustrates how the way we formulate a problem, i.e. our mental model, determines our ability to solve it. The wrong mental model locks us in, while the right one opens up possibilities. It’s time to let go the exploration/exploitation distinction.

Continue reading

In uncertainty, what can you control?

Uncertainty is anxiety-provoking in many ways, and often with good reason. Defined as the absence of information about a given phenomenon, it often means that we don’t know what to expect, leaving the door open to unpleasant surprises – loss of job, illness, accident, war, etc. – and leaving us helpless. Because the main fear linked to uncertainty is that of loss of control, where we can no longer foresee or plan. But this fear is based on a belief that only prediction allows control. This is not necessarily the case, and the two notions can be dissociated, with important consequences for management.

Continue reading

Why you have to be a conservative to innovate and (really) change the world

We often think that to innovate, we must start from scratch. Yet, all innovators are “dwarfs on the shoulders of giants”, as the philosopher Bernard de Chartres said. Far from refusing reality, let alone ignoring it, innovators start by accepting it, and then transforming it.

Continue reading

Why asking a innovation unit to be more disruptive is not a good idea

[Version française ici]

That innovation units created within large organizations have a difficult life is not new. Most of them disappear after three years on average, because after the euphoric start, they fail to become part of the life of the organization. But those that survive are not out of the woods yet, because they are caught between a top management that demands “more disruption” and an organization that, through its budgetary and control processes, removes any chance for a disruptive project to see the light of day. Getting out of this difficult situation requires being very clear about what “disruptive” means, and understanding the real nature of innovation.

Continue reading

Disruptive Innovation: What We Owe to Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen, the man behind the work on the notion of disruption, died on January 23, 2020 at the age of 67 of cancer. He was a major management theorist, like giants such as Peter Drucker or Michael Porter, and his work is more relevant than ever at a time when large companies continue to find it difficult to respond to the multiple ruptures in their environment. In what follows, I propose a synthesis of his work to show how it can be very useful.

Continue reading

The Conflict of Mental Models: The Key to Organizational Transformation

One of the most important reasons why organizational transformations fail is the existence of a conflict between what the organization wants to do and who it really is. This conflict can be understood by means of the notion of mental model, which corresponds to the way the organization sees its environment and itself. With this perspective, transformation is about changing the organization’s individual and collective mental models. While this is difficult in itself, it is even more so when the current model, which must evolve, is perceived as valid, because this leads to a conflict between the existing and the desired model. Surfacing this conflict and explicitly addressing it is the key to successful organizational transformation.

Continue reading