In the tale of the corporate Christmas story, Forbes has invoked the ghost of innovation past to remind the miserish and conservative Ebenezer Scrooge of management how past generations already wrestled with many of the challenges we may view as new and novel. Detailing how John Keats and later W. Edwards Demming looked at innovation and business in general, the Forbes piece does much to counter the prevailing wisdom that innovation programs are doomed to fail within large organizations. This one is a quick read that is well worth it.
In a nutshell, the post draws a stark line between the empirical and the important. While Keats was a romantic poet and isn’t generally thought of as a business thinker or strategist, he understood the necessity of understanding and accepting “half knowledge.” This basically being capable of accepting uncertainty and not blinding grasping for misleading or rushed facts. In other words, he understood that the empirical is not always important, and the important is not always completely empirical.
Demming is much more well known inside the corporate sphere, but often misunderstood and his teachings misapplied. His world also revolved around the less emperical and the uncertain. He further contended that you cannot substitute measurement for leadership. The piece explains that failure during implementation of new programs – whether Demming’s TQM or any innovation initiative – is often because that program is incomplete, not because it is wrong.
You can read the full story over at Forbes, and we highly recommend it. It is an interesting read.