Always in or out of fashion, innovation gets rediscovered as a growth enabler every half dozen years. Too often, grand declarations about innovation are followed by mediocre execution that produces anemic results, and innovation groups are quietly disbanded. Each managerial generation embarks on the same enthusiastic quest for the next new thing. And each faces the same challenges - most stemming from the tensions between protecting existing revenue streams critical to current success and supporting new concepts that may be crucial to future success. In this article, Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter reflects on four major waves of innovation enthusiasm she's observed over the past 25 years.
From the November 2006 issue of Harvard Business Review.