The role of the manager in business innovation


In my recent post ‘Human resources and sustainable business growth’ I have outlined how technology replaced the human labour in the 20th century and how recently (AI) is trying to substitute managers’ ability to think.

While computers can undoubtedly replace the chores of repetitive and routine tasks, they will never be able to replace our human ability to think. Well, this until they create a machine that is better at forgetting rather than knowing - but that, I believe, will take another while.

For the time being, we rely on people to come up with new possibilities for value creation that drive sustainable business growth.

What I want to do here is explaining the link between two different types of innovation and comparing the work of the machine and the work of the manager.

Incremental innovation occurs mostly because of a technology breakthrough in the form of new materials available, new and more powerful hardware and software, new ways to connect, etc.

By adopting the latest best practices and technologies emerging in their industry, managers foster an incremental innovation journey in their organisation.


Incremental innovation is a must, and I believe that after several years of doing this, management has become not only proficient but it excels in continually creating a better version of their existing products and services.

Let me tell you here that the nature of this work is rational rather than creative, therefore exposed to an explicit strategic limitation: it can be copied, replicated and improved by competitors.

Reverse engineering no longer applies to products, but also to the processes needed to create that product.

While incremental innovation (driven by a technology breakthrough) provides organisations with temporary competitive advantage, we need to merge this with another type of innovation which is human centred: disruptive innovation.

People and not technology?

Yes, when it comes to think creatively about a new growth initiative.

It is our human ability to forget what we currently know, which enable us to create pictures of a better future for our customers. Let’s call these future memories.

Creativity is our ability to anticipate a better future for our customers. We do this by removing the pains that customers currently don’t even know they have.


And this leads us to the difference between setting up a growth intuitive aiming to barely satisfying an un-met customer need or an un-articulated customer need, and we will see this in the next Blog.

For now, let’s close this post saying that is the research of the problem (problem-finding), instead of its solution (problem-solving) that requires our most significant contribution as humans, and this is also the source of the sustainability of the competitive advantage of any organisation.


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