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Systems and superstars II

Putting things into a perspective.

Bruno Pešec
Bruno Pešec
1 min read
Systems and superstars II

Expanding on this week's Bruno Unfiltered:

Improving the average innovation performance across the organisation is the key for the long-term success with innovation. Focus on systems, not superstars.

Let's illustrate the above with numbers.

Imagine a small organisation with ten innovators:

  • Nine have average performance (40%).
  • One is superstar (80% performance).

Now imagine you have two improvement options at hand:

  • Hire another superstar (100% improvement of superstar team).
  • Invest in on-the-job training and innovation skills to go from 40% to 50% performance (25% improvement for everybody else).

Assume cost is similar (superstar will need to be on-boarded, training will take time, it works out evenly).

Which is a better option for systemic innovation performance?

Hiring additional superstar—a 100% "local" improvement!—yields a 9% innovation performance improvement for the whole system.

Investing in increasing the average proficiency with innovation—a 25% "local" improvement—yields a 20% innovation performance improvement for the whole system.

Twice as much for a quarter of improvement.

How do the numbers look if you have more innovators?

Let's say 30 innovators, with 28 average performers and 2 superstars.

Again, doubling high performers improves the systemic performance by "just" 12%, while improving the average by 25% improves the systemic performance by 22%.

The larger organisation, the bigger the benefit from improving the average.

With 100 innovators, five superstars and 95 average performers, doubling the former improves the organisation's innovation performance by 5% while raising the average by 25% improves the organisation's innovation performance by 23%. That's almost five times the difference.

Now, please don't take the above as a rallying call against high-performers and experts. Heck, I consider myself one, to allow myself a moment of arrogance.

What I want to illustrate is that organisation's long-term success with innovation hinges on its ability to continuously gets better at innovation by investing in all people.

InnovationStrategyLeadership

Bruno Pešec

I help business leaders innovate profitably at scale.

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