If companies are serious about innovation, at some point along the way they’re going to have to deal with conflict. Not just conflict among team members with diverse backgrounds and cognitive thinking styles (because if you’re serious about innovation, you need to have that type of variety), but conflict between the ongoing business machine and the innovation engine.
There will inevitably be conflict between the two, which are in direct contrast to each other.
The ongoing business machine is built for predictability and operating efficiency, while the innovation engine is most often unpredictable, which is the nature of innovation. When colleagues say that they want to make innovation predictable and repeatable, well, that’s a nice thought, but the very nature of the beast is anything but those characteristics. Nothing against those folks, but it’s often the case that they’ve been plucked out of research and development and given a new title with “innovation” somewhere in it because it’s a new buzzword in business, and their mindset is still reflective of the core business, which is built for predictable, repeatable operation.
If you’re serious about innovation, you have to walk the fine line between operating in the business and outside the business, tapping the resources and expertise of the core operation while not getting sucked into the desired predictability and efficiency, which are the goals of ongoing operations. Leading the innovation process means understanding that the road isn’t going to be smooth, because the very nature of ongoing business functions and innovation are in conflict. How that conflict is melded and managed will determine how the innovation engine performs, and separating the innovation team is a necessary exercise, because at some point, serving the dual masters of predictability and unpredictability isn’t sustainable.