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Innovating From The Top - Method, Myth, or Madness?

| On 11, Sep 2007

Bob Carter

There is a view that the clearest view of the Innovation horizon is from the top of the ladder but is this a fact or fiction?  It is true that industry leaders need to set an environment that enables creativity and trusts individuals to turn that creativity into reality but the role of C-Level Executives must be to run the company to the satisfaction of shareholders. In my opinion, leading Innovation from the top usually forces incrementalism because shareholders want stable results, not risk takers.


Could you imagine the scenario in a major record company about 20 years ago where a group of African Americans suggested a new form of music that related to their lifestyle, that included shouting lewd and cursed lyrics to show their anger and had a thumping beat that gave most listeners a headache at best and loosened the teeth at worst.  The C-Level Executives would have laughed before throwing them out. 


What actually happened was an underground music scene was set up, usually in ghetto areas, that allowed people the freedom to create their own music, reflecting their own views and dealing with their personal issues. Rap music was Innovation in every sense of the word, but it was born out of the need of consumers, not the idea of a genius C-Level Executive. Today, Rap is by far the most popular and successful form of music in our culture.