It will also help you understand innovation and entrepreneurship as effective problem-finding and problem-solving processes. You will learn both tools and frameworks applicable to enhancing innovation within your workplace.
This course is part of the Executive Pathways series and is a required course for the Master of Science in Leadership.
Location: Washington, DC
- Customer service
About the instructor:
Todd Zenger is the Robert and Barbara Frick Professor of Business Strategy at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis. He serves as academic director for the Executive MBA program and as chair of the tenured faculty. He has been at Washington University since 1990. He currently teaches or has taught courses in the EMBA program and the MBA program and has received teaching awards in both programs. He completed his undergraduate degree in economics at Stanford University and his Ph.D. in strategy and organization at UCLA. Professor Zenger’s research focuses on topics of organizational design and incentives, organizational boundaries, and corporate strategy. He has also examined how firms optimally organize for innovation and knowledge creation.
A Conversation with Todd Zenger on the Government Entrepreneur
Organizations exist to create value for those who provide them with funding and those who receive their products and services. Through innovation, effective organizations constantly seek to deliver new value to citizens and customers, or deliver similar value with fewer resources. The staff at Brookings Executive Education recently sat down with Todd to discuss innovation and how government agencies can better understand this increasingly important topic.
What’s the biggest challenge facing federal agencies regarding innovation?
One of the challenges all managers face is trying to maintain an energy and excitement around innovation. It is very easy to become focused on trying to ever more perfectly replicate routines, processes and procedures within an agency and fail to step back and ask how these can be dramatically improved to more fully satisfy the customer. Of course, a big challenge in this effort is that the information essential to undertaking dramatic innovation is often deeply embedded in the organization. Innovation is seldom a solely top-down exercise, but rather demands skillfully engaging multiple levels of the organization in an exercise of both problem finding and problem solving. Effective agency directors are adept at leading innovation.
To what capacity should “open innovation” tools be used in the federal government?
"Open innovation” has become a pervasive trend in both the public and private sector. This trend is not surprising. People generally enjoy solving problems, especially others’ problems. Moreover, innovation occurs as organizations discover novel and valuable sources of knowledge to direct at internal problems and challenges. By broadly engaging those outside a federal agency in contemplating the problems, opportunities and challenges within an agency, organizations access a vast network of knowledge that simply does not reside internally. Since innovation is essentially an exercise in problem finding and problem solving, skillful managers find ways to interest and engage those externally in their problems. Open innovation is an important set of tools to facilitate this.
How can managers help foster the mindset of innovation within their employees?
Leadership in all realms is about setting direction. With innovation, the challenge is that the manager must constantly push the organization to do something new—to solve one problem or set of problems and then relentlessly move on to the next. Thus, leading employees in effective innovation requires an awareness of when to shift direction and undertake a new set of problems. Leadership involves knowing when there are diminishing returns to the current direction, and dramatically higher returns to a new one. Leading innovation is about managing these dynamics. Rather than managers viewing their assignment as engineering the perfect organization, managers who foster innovation view their task as creating a problem-finding and problem-solving organization and then skillfully and dynamically directing its focus toward the greatest opportunities for value creation.
What is customer anthropology and what is its value in creating innovation?
Organizations in both the public and private sector exist to create value—typically value for their customers of one form or another. Innovation occurs as organizations discover new ways to deliver value for customers. To understand how to create value for customers the first step is gaining a thorough understanding of how your customers create value and how you in turn create value for them. Innovation requires a thorough understanding of your customers’ problems and then requires identifying those your organization might efficiently solve. Customer anthropology is simply an approach to engage your agency in this exercise of deeply understanding your customer and identifying opportunities for innovation.