Nurturing Cross-Divisional InnovationIn a brief article in the July-August 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Adam M. Kleinbaum, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Business School, and Michael L. Tushman, his dissertation advisor at HBS, summarize findings of research they conducted investigating the best way to nurture cross-divisional innovation at a corporation.
Kleinbaum and Tushman recommend that managers "shape and cultivate" the corporation's informal social networks in order to "efficiently find and exploit innovations." Their research indicates that the type of network participant to focus on changes as the innovation process moves from the exploration phase to the implementation phase.
- In the exploration phase, "idea brokers" individuals who maintain broad networks throughout the organization are best situated to "draw connections between and recognize collaborative opportunities for technologies, markets, or people that might otherwise never come into contact."
- In the implementation phase, individuals with deep relationships across divisions are best positions to "mobilize the organizational support and resources necessary for execution." Deep relationships "enable the exchange of fine-grained and tacit information, help actors navigate the unfamiliar terrain of partner divisions, and allow cohesiveness to build within the network, increasing trust and reducing intergroup rivalry."