Innovation Best Practice

Just been reading The Department of Mad Scientists by Michael Belfiore, which is about the work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US. If you haven’t heard of DARPA, and most people outside the US haven’t, these are the folks that more or less invented things like the internet (originally called ARPANET) and GPS.

Not as interesting as I thought it would be, although there was a little gem hidden inside. One of the secrets to DARPAs success as an innovator is that as well as minimal bureaucracy and low overheads the organization has strict term limits for its managers. This means that people have a maximum of 4-5 years to make an impact. This reminds me slightly of an ex-CEO of Unilever in the UK who would halve the budget and bring forward the deadline on innovation projects that had stalled. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but adversity often appears to be the father.

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