To companies thinking about developing new technology, bringing in expertise to catalyse digitalisation, scope and develop artificial intelligence to solve business problems and leverage the best ideas from their R & D teams, we recommend this recent article published in Harvard Business Review as a source of further reading on this topic. It is suggested that R & D and corporate bureaucracy don’t mix. In fact there is 100% antipathy fuelled by the “controlling” elements of HR and management instituted in process to repeat the same thing reliably over and over again. Essential to the quality control and productivity of a company but kryptonite to the creativity of the R & D organisation.

Our take on this complex issue is that process kills creativity. But without creativity, the company has no ideas and falls behind in the marketplace. Without process the company can’t grow effectively. The ideas come first and then processes should be aligned to enable the development of the product, its rigorous testing, commercialisation and support. If you wish to nurture the R & D team and encourage new ideas you need to respect their intelligence and let them think and act as a specialised unit.

Large corporates with complex hierarchical organisational structures are overtaken by agile R & D driven start-ups which incubate ideas and rapidly push them to the early adopters. But how could these two mindsets ever work together? It is possible if the creativity of the R & D team is recognised within the organisation and allowed to operate with entrepreneurial thinking to solve the problems.

This is about leadership. This starts with the shareholders and the Board who are accountable to them. The values and philosophies which underpin culture are bred from these leaders and their protégés within the organisation. The Board needs to be highly aware of the need to be innovative not just in the use of technology but also to apply flexibility to leadership styles. This approach builds on the strengths of the team, creates a psychologically safe environment, and encourages good communication. At the root of good communication is respect, but without it, one team may try to exert superiority over the other unless they are educated to recognise unique skills and contributions. Good leadership practice breaks down these barriers to create a bridge between very different mindsets and in turn acts as a catalyst to help teamwork flourish for the common good to achieve an effective sustainable organisation.

For further reading see this article in HBR: https://hbr.org/2020/05/rescuing-scientific-innovation-from-corporate-bureaucracy

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