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people playing multiple roles, Spence Silver’s glue would probably still be on a shelf somewhere.

Four crucial roles in the innovative process are the idea champion (the person who comes up with inno- vative problem solutions), the sponsor or mentor (the person who helps provide the resources, environment, and encouragement for the idea champion to work on his idea), the orchestrator or facilitator (the person who brings together cross-functional groups and neces- sary political support to facilitate implementation of creative ideas), and the rule breaker (the person who goes beyond organizational boundaries and barriers to ensure success of the innovation). Each of these roles is present in most important innovations in organiza- tions, and all are illustrated by the Post-It Note exam- ple below.

This story has four major parts.

  • 1.

    Spence Silver, while fooling around with chem- ical configurations that the academic literature indicated wouldn’t work, invented a glue that wouldn’t stick. Silver spent years giving pres- entations to any audience at 3M that would listen, trying to pawn off his glue on some divi- sion that could find a practical application for it. But nobody was interested.

  • 2.

    Henry Courtney and Roger Merrill developed a coating substance that allowed the glue to stick to one surface but not to others. This made it possible to produce a permanently temporary glue, that is, one that would peel off easily when pulled but would otherwise hang on forever.

  • 3.

    Art Fry found a problem that fit Spence Silver’s solution. He found an application for the glue as a “better bookmark” and as a note pad. No equipment existed at 3M to coat only a part of a piece of paper with the glue. Fry therefore carried 3M equipment and tools home to his own basement, where he designed and made his own machine to manufacture the forerun- ner of Post-It Notes. Because the working machine became too large to get out of his basement, he blasted a hole in the wall to get the equipment back to 3M. He then brought together engineers, designers, production man- agers, and machinists to demonstrate the pro- totype machine and generate enthusiasm for manufacturing the product.

  • 4.

    Geoffrey Nicholson and Joseph Ramsey began marketing the product inside 3M. They also submitted the product to the standard 3M market tests. The product failed miserably. No

one wanted to pay $1.00 for a pad of scratch paper. But when Nicholson and Ramsey broke 3M rules by personally visiting test market sites and giving away free samples, the con- suming public became addicted to the product.

In this scenario, Spence Silver was both a rule breaker and an idea champion. Art Fry was also an idea champion, but more importantly, he orchestrated the coming together of the various groups needed to get the innovation off the ground. Henry Courtney and Roger Merrill helped sponsor Silver’s innovation by pro- viding him with the coating substance that would allow his idea to work. Geoff Nicholson and Joe Ramsey were both rule breakers and sponsors in their bid to get the product accepted by the public. In each case, not only did all these people play unique roles, but they did so with tremendous enthusiasm and zeal. They were con- fident of their ideas and willing to put their time and resources on the line as advocates. They fostered sup- port among a variety of constituencies, both within their own areas of expertise and among outside groups. Most organizations are inclined to give in to those who are sure of themselves, persistent in their efforts, and savvy enough to make converts of others.

Not everyone can be an idea champion. But when managers reward and recognize those who sponsor and orchestrate the ideas of others, innovation increases in organizations. Teams form, supporters replace competi- tors, and creativity thrives. Facilitating multiple-role development is the job of the innovative manager.


In the twenty-first century, almost no manager or orga- nization can afford to stand still, to rely on past practices, and to avoid innovation. In a fast-paced environment in which the half-life of knowledge is about three years and the half-life of almost any computer technology is counted in weeks and months instead of years, creative problem solving is increasingly a prerequisite for suc- cess. The digital revolution makes the rapid production of new ideas almost mandatory. This is not to negate the importance of analytical problem solving, of course. The quality revolution of the 1980s and 1990s taught us important lessons about carefully proscribed, sequen- tial, and analytical problem-solving processes. Error rates, response times, and missed deadlines dropped dramatically when analytical problem solving was insti- tutionalized in manufacturing and service companies.

In this chapter, we have pointed out a well- developed model for solving problems. It consists of



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