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Eric Martin is a professor at and faculty co-founder and Director of the Galant Cen-ter for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce. Eric’s thirty-year career includes successful operating experience as a Chief Executive (Software, Consumer Products & Services, Professional Ser-vices), Strategist (Global Consultancy Partner), Entrepreneur, Change Agent (Busi-ness Transformation, Turnarounds, and Start-Ups), and Professor.

Director, Galant Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Eric Martin

Eric Martin

University of Virginia

What are the essential roles, and skills in a truly innovative environment?

Truly innovative environments are not commonplace, particularly among large companies. This is not a reflection of poor management. Rather, it is a natural outcome of the way in which organizations grow. Every company begins its existence as a startup. That’s easy to forget. But, there was once a very small team at every (currently) Global 50 enterprise playing something akin to sandlot baseball or pickup soccer (football) in which the players (the founders) took on any role necessary at the moment. Collaboration… and inventiveness… was high, driven by close contact, shared observations and insights, a common mission, and, often, scarce resources. If any meaningful success was achieved, role specialization was the normal outcome, followed by process development, hiring to job requirements, and, finally, structure for scaling—particularly, a hierarchy of some type.

It is the requirements for scaling, driven by a need to deliver predictable levels of value and profit, that necessarily begets the operational silos, undifferentiated hiring, and immune response to all things new and uncertain that, over time, drive out all but the most pedestrian innovation.

To combat the calcification that can occur through the scaling process, organizations must intentionally hire outside the warm comfort zone of “cogs in the machine” job descriptions, elevate original thinkers and thinking to a place of prominence, redefine failure as learning, and manage for agility and speed [ ... ]


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