Some years ago, I attended a meeting of the managing working group of the Spanish Electricity Networks Technology Platform for the first time. One of the main issues to be discussed was the need of asking the government for better support for power electronics engineers as an important matter to provide the grids with new smart devices. In a certain moment of the meeting, one of the attendees looked at me and said to everyone there that perhaps we should not make a great effort in that point of the meeting when electricity companies hired managing engineers instead of electronic ones. I was surprised because I am electronic engineer by profession although I have additional education in business administration. However, he was right, if you look at my linkedin profile, you could think easily that is the profile of a politician instead the profile of an innovator.
I have done the military service, I have been hired by the public administration, my photograph was published in many newspapers when I was twenty eight years old because I was working in projects to improve the life of handicapped people, and even that work was referenced at all the national press and televisions. I have collaborated in the development of regulation and standards, and I have been lecturer in economic forums for competitiveness, and I have been attending international meetings for the economic development of the UE.
With this curriculum, probably I would have been an extremely good candidate to be president of the USA. In fact, most of the Spanish MP’s have not a so good curriculum for its activity because, in Spain, we are not as exigent with our politicians as the American people.
It can be true that my profile seems to be the profile of a politician instead of the profile of an innovator; however, there is a good reason for this: I have been an innovation manager at large corporations instead of innovation manager at start-ups.
I would be a good political candidate but I have not got the support of a political party because I have never searched for that kind of support. On the other hand, I would be a good engineer making innovative devices and products, at least I was it when I was younger, but I have not the image of an innovator because I have been dedicated my career to management.
This is not a godsend. As the attendees at the technology platform meeting, people will expect that you confirm their expectations. If you seem to be politically correct, people are expecting that you have got the support of a strong organization as a regular army officer, and you will find in front of you a handful of competitors with their very strong organization behind them. If you seem to be an innovator, people are expecting that you seem politically incorrect, having the strength and the willpower to convince people to adopt a very different idea to the commonly accepted by the status-quo in the guerrilla people way, undermining the arguments of competitors one step at a time.
There is a great difference between what we can name inner and outer innovation. The competences required to drive innovation are different if we want to introduce a disruptive innovation in a market or if we want to change the customs and strategies of a large organization.
This can be analyzed from a complexity viewpoint. Organizations are, due to their own nature, very structured, however, markets are much less structured and their behavior has much more uncertainty. To drive innovation inside a large organization is similar to fight in an open field (where you can see the resources of the competitor). However, to introduce an innovation in a market with a start-up is similar to fight in a jungle. You can take advantage of your competitor cannot see where you are, and how many resources can be used against its market position.
Large corporations are searching for “politically correct” innovation managers because large corporations are defining what must be considered politically correct in their markets, however, startups will require the opposite profile. A startup with a disruptive product will require a “politically incorrect” manager, someone who knows how to compete against the powerful structures of large corporations with fewer resources.
If we analyze the current economic situation, we will be able to see that the complexity of the worldwide economy has been increased in the last years. This should boost the role of innovation management for two reasons. “Politically correct” managers would be valuable in order to increase the strength of large corporations driving changes of large companies to increase the resilience of their businesses. On the other hand, “politically incorrect” managers would have their own opportunity because as market uncertainty increases there is more room for societies to adopt great changes and better conditions in order that startups be more competitive.