You Don’t Need to Be Good at Everything

For the second day in a row, Hugh MacLeod’s daily newsletter has sparked a thought for me. Here it is:

This reminded me of a conversation that I had recently with one of our potential research partners. We are trying to find a corporate partner for my PhD student Nadja’s research work, and we were pitching the project to a couple of people, one of whom I’ve worked with at another firm. In her proposal, Nadja said “Leading practice companies need to follow leading practice for water management.” Nick’s response to that was roughly:

I disagree with that. Leading practice companies can’t be leading practice in everything. They need to be leading practice in the things that are critical for them, but for everything else they just need to be fit-for-purpose. For example, I don’t want to be leading practice in payroll – there are other people that I can outsource that to – we just need to be fit-for-purpose.

I think that this is probably true, not just for water management, but for innovation as well. Even the most innovative firms in the world are not innovative in everything – they have some parts of the business where they are simply fit-for-practice. This is why it is so important to link innovation to strategy. Doing so will allow us to be innovative in the activities that are most critical strategically.

Innovation is critical to success, but we need to target our innovation efforts. What activities do we need to be great at, and which just need to be fit-for-purpose? Focus innovation on the areas where we need to be great.

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

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “You Don’t Need to Be Good at Everything

  1. Good point Tim.

    Corollary to your post – “You Have to Be Good at Something” :-)

    Innovative companies need not be good at everything as you say – but they definitely exceed in one or two areas at minimum and more importantly are exceptionally good at creating synergy between the “mediocre” parts of their ecosystem and the”exceptional” parts to create value.

Comments are closed.