Innovating the Way We Innovate

It's said that most big companies aren't capable of breakthrough innovation. Rob Shelton, Managing Director of PwC's PRTM Management Consulting division, shared with attendees at the GreenBiz Innovation Forum his thoughts on how companies of any size can change their relationship to innovation.

Among the topics covered in this short presentation include the need to cultivate judgment and wisdom, understanding the difference between good ideas and great ones, and developing the knowledge to know what to do when a great idea emerges.

The first step is to recognize the different types of innovation, he said. There's incremental, breakthrough and radical innovation. Breakthrough innovation -- the ideas and concepts that can change the way we work and live -- is the most desired but the hardest to achieve.

Companies, especially large and long-established ones, have a tough time achieving breakthrough innovation. Their forte is incremental innovation and that's because the very structure of most business models tends to thwart breakthrough innovation.

"Something has stultified innovation and it's called the business unit," Shelton said. "Innovation is the antithesis of what the business unit does ... Apple is the only company I know that does not have business units -- it has functional  units."

So for most companies the next key step is realizing that "the innovation process requires special places to operate," said Shelton. Providing that space within a firm is essential.