Magazine article Workforce Management

10 Steps for Innovation

Magazine article Workforce Management

10 Steps for Innovation

Article excerpt


IF YOU WANT A REMINDER of just how innovative American business really is, take a look at the changes in the humble toaster.

A recent Wall Street Journal story spotlighted the growing niche for toasters that not only brown a bagel or slice of bread, but do a whole lot more. There are toasters that also poach eggs, allow you to griddle pancakes or have a coffee maker attached to the side. Still others offer a warming tray to heat up precooked meals. Then there are combination toasters that include a TV or radio so you can be entertained while waiting for your breakfast.

But this column isn't about toasters; it's about people, because business innovation depends upon good people with a creative spirit and an entrepreneurial mind.

Nowhere is this more evident than in biotechnology, an industry where America dominates the world. And few companies dominate American biotechnology more than Amgen, No. 212 on last year's Fortune 500 with 2004 revenue of more than $10.5 billion.

This month I heard Amgen chairman and CEO Kevin Sharer speak to a group of business executives and alumni at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. What Sharer had to say about innovation is worth repeating.

People, he said, are one of the critical drivers of innovation. "There is no substitute for the best people," Sharer said, "and there is no system that will replace the best people." If you have the best people, he noted, they can figure out the answers to just about any critical business problem you might toss their way.

Sharer listed his (and Amgen's) top 10 requirements for innovation in biotechnology, but the list could be applied to most companies in just about any field. Notice all the points that touch on people:

1. Have the best possible research-and-development leadership.

2. Foster an open, risk-hungry environment that tolerates dissent and rewards the right results and behaviors. …

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