Drucker on Principles of Innovation, Part 2

In his book, The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management, Peter Drucker analyzed the ways that management practices and principles affect the performance of organizations, individuals, and society. The book covers the basic principles of management and gives professionals the tools to perform the tasks that the environment of tomorrow will require of them.

These are my takeaways from reading the book.

Drucker believed that innovation is a practice, something that we can learn to do by applying hard, organized, purposeful work. He discussed the five “dos” of innovation.

  1. Purposeful innovation begins with a systematic analysis of the opportunities.
  2. Innovation is both conceptual and perceptual.
  3. Effective innovation must be simple and focused.
  4. Effective innovations start small, not grandiose.
  5. A successful innovation aims at the leadership of something.

Drucker also outlined three things that we should not do when building a practice of innovation.

The first “do not” is trying to be clever. Human beings are the ultimate user of the innovations, and incompetence or carelessness can easily derail an innovation. Anything too clever, whether in design or execution, is almost certain to fail.

The second “do not” is trying to diversify or to do too many things at once. When we design innovations that stray from a core, the innovations are likely to become diffuse.

Innovation needs the concentrated energy of a unified effort behind it. It also requires that the people who put together the innovation collaborate well with each other. This collaboration requires a unity or a common core. The core does not have to be technology or knowledge. Drucker believed that market knowledge supplies a better core of unity in any enterprise than technology does.

Lastly, Drucker suggested not trying to innovate for the future but to innovate for the present. Innovation may have long-range impact, but focusing solely on the distant future might incur the opportunity costs of shorter-term benefits.

Drucker explained the “not-waiting-for-the-future” suggestion using a pharmaceutical example. Although many years of research and development work are common in pharmaceutical research, no pharmaceutical company would start a research project for something that does not have potential, immediate application for needs that already exist.

Unless there is an immediate application in the present, innovation is like the drawings in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook—a “brilliant idea” but that is all.