Tom Peters on innovation

Here’s a nice talk by Tom Peters on innovation. Some of the points that jumped out at me:

  • He again emphasises the importance of process/business model innovation – we simply can’t get stuck on only thinking of new products as innovation.
  • The idea that you should only buy from vendors that are in the top 10% of their industry in R&D expenditure is pretty interesting. Yes, R&D is spending is only a proxy for innovation, and not a great one – but his main point, that you need to work with the most innovative people and firms that you can find is well taken.
  • Good ideas can come from anywhere – not just inside your firm. Yes!
  • “The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle” – quoting Gary Hamel, Peters says that great innovation doesn’t come from corporate headquarters.
  • Diversity of mental approaches is important – for more on this, read The Difference by Scott Page.
  • “Who’s the most interesting person that you’ve met in the past 90 days?” – interesting question, and probably worth asking…
  • Interesting point on incremental innovation – he cites studies that suggest that people/processes with higher levels of variation end up being more innovative than those with tightly controlled output. So maybe lean/six sigma aren’t compatible with innovating? I’d be interested in hearing thoughts on that…
  • I like his idea that firms should be built to perform for 20 years, then move on to something new. That rings pretty true to me.

I know that Peters’ stuff isn’t necessarily overburdened with support from well-deisgned research studies, but I still find him to be consistently interesting, often inspirational, and most imprtantly to me, someone that talks about the world of business in a way that is very conssitent with the way that I’ve experienced it. So I don’t read him to find out the truth – I read him to get ideas. And he’s great for that.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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2 thoughts on “Tom Peters on innovation

  1. “So maybe lean/six sigma aren’t compatible with innovating? I’d be interested in hearing thoughts on that…”

    The best papers I’ve seen on this question come from Mary Benner and her colleagues. From memory, their answer is- it depends on how dynamic the context is. In dynamic contexts process management isn’t good for innovation, but in stable ones it is:

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