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The Clash of Structure and Chaos

By: Marie Alice Dibon
Posted: February 27, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

For most large companies, fostering innovation is a challenge. It means drastically rethinking processes, human resources management, even goals. Because chaos is at the core of creativity, just maintaining that creative process or reinstating it takes some measure of chaos.

Ideas need room to come to life, to flow and expand. At some point, something has to give: Control, processes and structure will have to recede to give way to the creative process. Here is how major players in the life science industry have managed to maintain a measure of chaos, while preserving their corporate sanity.

Seven Pillars of Good Chaos Creation

1. Start with People

When it comes to the chances for success of an innovation policy, most, if not all, hinges on people. From top to bottom, people are at the heart of innovation. Creation loves chaos and hates control. Artists, composers, Nobel Prize winners, inventors or researchers are not generally characters most likely to come in every day, sit at a desk, do the same thing for eight hours and go home happy. The ability to handle control is not their best feature.

Very few people fit the description. According to Frederic Lucas-Conwell, CEO of Growth Resources, Inc., a California company helping firms manage human resources, only 5% of people are happy making decisions or taking the lead in a chaotic, uncontrolled environment. A leading U.S. biotechnology company Genentech, headquartered in San Francisco, understands that and carefully profiles its new hires. It emphasizes excellence and creativity for R&D; for operations, a successful candidate will be able to execute and comply.