Collective Genius: Does De-centralized Management Guarantee Innovation?

Many familiar and tried-and-true leadership methods hit a wall when it comes to fomenting innovation. So, how do innovations happen? And to what extent does de-centralized management enable innovation?



Linda Hill, Professor of Management at Harvard, studied for almost a decade 16 women and men, who have proved themselves to be exceptional leaders. What Professor Hill has discovered is that all innovative organizations have special capabilities at their disposal:

  1. Creative tension: Low-level conflict and arguments should be leveraged as a marketplace for ideas. The goal should be to generate a portfolio of options, by engaging in active listening and internalizing the notion that innovations require diversity and conflict to come about.
  2. Creative resolve: Mix and match ideas until something emerges that is meaningful and viable.
  3. Creative agility: Allow trial and error in order to question ideas and to refine them step by step. Thus an individual trail is blazed into the future.

All these capabilities require the cooperation of many people. Because even a genius will never achieve as much by working alone as can be achieved when several geniuses join forces and work together.


You as leader of your organization can foster these capabilities, says Linda Hill as follows:

  1. Hire people who can argue with you and with each other in a constructive manner.
  2. Create an environment for your employees which will empower them to develop and practice innovative problem-solving competences.

Armed with the capabilities described above you will create a group of people, who, like at many other firms, such as Pixar and Google, will achieve innovation success. Now, could that be the solution that you seek for your organization?


Can you add your own examples of innovation-fostering leadership methods to the ones listed here? Would you say that the management role described here is a guarantee of innovation? What other critical factors are there, in your opinion?


Photo Credit: Anna Dziubinka via Unsplash.

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