Any executive with half a brain knows that innovation is vital
to success. The problem is that very few individuals have the
combination of both brains - commercial and creative talents - to
be world-class geniuses. Worse yet, those of us who are unskilled
in the commercial or the creative realm are generally unaware of
that fact and unable to evaluate competence - our own, or anyone
That is one of the key reasons that companies struggle to
generate a continuous stream of innovations. They somehow stifle
the creativity that leads to game-changing ideas. In turbulent
times, they often cut back on innovation efforts rather than
increasing them - arguably a recipe for disaster.
Compare that all-too-common situation with companies that have
truly changed the game in their industries. What you find there are
distinctive kinds of partnerships, often permeating the
organizations. One partner is an imaginative, intuitive
"right-brain" individual who spins out new ideas every day and
seems somehow to channel the wants and needs of target customers.
The other partner is invariably a "left brain" executive, someone
comfortable making commercial decisions based on hard-nosed
analysis. This left-brain, right-brain language is just shorthand -
the capabilities associated with each don't reside purely in the
corresponding region of the cerebral cortex. But it's a useful
taxonomy, which is why we call these companies "BothBrain®"
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BothBrain partnerships turn up in all sorts of industries.
Howard Schultz conceived and developed the iconic Starbucks
coffeehouse format, while CEO Orin Smith oversaw the chain's rapid
growth. Former track coach Bill Bowerman developed Nike's
innovative running shoes, while partner Phil Knight handled
management, finance and sales. Steve Jobs famously acts as Apple's
creative director, overseeing nearly every aspect of innovations
such as the iPhone, while COO Tim Cook handles the day-to-day
running of the business.
Some highly innovative industries put BothBrain partnerships at
the center of their business model. Virtually every successful
brand in the fashion industry, for instance, is run by a
partnership between a creative director and a brand CEO. Fashion
companies foster collaboration of this sort throughout the
organization, not just at the top. They carefully spell out who has
responsibility for decisions relating to innovation. Creative
directors, for example, have final say over new-product decisions,
but must work within commercial frameworks laid down by brand
Like fashion companies, innovative organizations in other
industries have begun to build BothBrain partnerships deliberately.
Procter & Gamble, for instance - traditionally known for its
analytic approach to brand management - has made itself into an
innovation leader partly by emphasizing creative, design-oriented,
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Darrell Rigby is a partner at Bain & Company and leads
the firm's Global Retail and Innovation practices. Kara Gruver, a
partner in the Bain Boston office, leads the firm's regional
practice areas for Retail and Consumer Products. James Allen, a
partner in London, is co-leader of the firm's Global Strategy
Additional articles appearing in this edition of the
Results Brief newsletter:
Private equity's new landscape
by Hugh MacArthur, Graham Elton, Bill Halloran and Chul-Joon
The worst for private equity may be over. But as the market
improves, the more pressing question is where does the industry go
from here? For small-cap and growth funds, the past year may turn
out to have been a speed bump. Deal volume is down, but given the
lower debt requirements and manageable sizes, these deals will be
the first to come back. Among mid- and large-cap firms, this period
of crisis is likely to provoke a significant reshuffling of the
deck. Rising to the top will depend on how quickly and sustainably
you can develop three sets of capabilities.
Downturns create an opportunity to strengthen
by Donie Lochan and Sachin Shah
Managing information technology in a downturn is different from
normal IT management and cost discipline. When economic turbulence
strikes, IT needs quickly to realign with new business priorities.
CIOs will be charged with keeping IT investments under control,
radically cutting costs, while at the same time doing some clever
prioritizing to address new business needs-the discipline to "do
even more with less" becomes the mantra of today's CIO. The trouble
is that many companies instinctively look at their information
technology departments primarily as an easy place to cut costs.
It's an impulse that will prove expensive down the road.