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The Official Baldrige Blog

The Boss and the Innovator

boss and innovator

I feel like I should start this blog post with something like: "An innovator and a boss walk into a bar..." But, I don't have a punch line to follow it, so I will stick to the facts.

I recently read a blog post entitled, Think Like an Author, Not an Owner. I felt the story should be more accurately cast as thinking like an innovator and a boss and that it allowed me to make an important point that is emphasized in the Baldrige Excellence Framework.

You have probably never heard of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit; at least I had not. Oswald was the 1920's creation of Walt Disney and Ubbe Iwerks (Disney's star graphic artist). Oswald was owned by Universal Studios. After Oswald became a success, the Universal executives told Disney to cut their costs and increase productivity or Universal would hire  ("steal") Disney's best animators.

Disney and Iwerks kept their animators, left Oswald to Universal, and went on to create Mickey Mouse and the first full-length animated film, Snow White. Disney invested all his money and borrowed money in addition to create the film and achieve one of his visions.

In an interesting twist of fate, when John Lassater and Ed Catmull wanted to create  the first computer-animated film they were unable to get the support they needed at Disney so they founded Pixar and created Toy Story. However, Disney owned the rights to the characters. Pixar went on to create Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo, which had no Disney characters. When Disney subsequently realized the creative ingenuity at Pixar, it merged with Pixar and Lassater now heads Disney's animation division.

In both these instances, first at Universal and then at Disney, the leaders thought only like bosses, who were looking at immediate income and short-term expenses. They did not focus on the potential for breakthrough innovation (ironic in Disney's case with Pixar), weighing what intelligent risks to take for the long-term success and growth of their companies. Innovators are not motivated by a short-term focus that stifles their creativity. They need encouragement and a supportive environment and will reward their organizations handsomely.

This brings us to a focus of the Baldrige framework for several years now: the role of visionary leaders in creating an environment that supports innovation and living a value of managing for innovation. These leaders have an organizational process for seeking strategic opportunities and pursuing those that are intelligent risks. They balance short-term needs and long-term success. They motivate all employees to think outside the box. Their organizations constantly scan the environment for opportunities that arise from inside and outside their industry. A practice in another industry, when adapted, could be an innovation in your industry.

Innovation results from a supportive environment and intelligent risk taking. The leader has to start by first providing the supportive environment!

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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Thank you Harry for the great blog that serves as a reminder for all of us to believe in ourselves and to follow our dreams.
I wish I could share this in LinkedIn!
Feel free to share the blog posting. Thanks for asking!
Harry, thank you for the reminder that we must maintain a safe environment for responsible risk taking.
Harry, thank you for sharing on risk taking. I got it.
Good story. Thank you for sharing.

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