For years Scott Hutcheson, a senior lecturer at Purdue University, kept running into a similar statistic: When companies set out to implement a strategic, transformative plan to improve business performance, a good portion of them failed.

Back in 2013, the Project Management Institute said 44% of them failed. In 2017, Harvard Business Review reported that 67% failed. In 2021, McKinsey said that 70% failed.

That’s a decent-sized range of percentages for the same statistic, but even the most optimistic one is still pretty dismal.

“I got curious as to why that was,” Hutcheson says, “which led me to other people who were asking similar questions. What we discovered was a big difference in how strategic direction was set and executed 100 years ago versus today.”

The “Command and Control” Approach

Most of our strategy disciplines came from the military, in which there was a “command and control” structure. In a business context, this refers to the typical “top-down” style of management in which the leader controls all decision-making and communication, and employees do the work that management says needs to be done.

This approach worked in the industrial era, Hutcheson says, when there were fewer dynamic features around global supply chains. Workers also had fewer choices about where they wanted to work, and there was very little segmentation of the specialization of knowledge areas.

“As technology progressed, the world got smaller, and organizations evolved into more complex and adaptive systems,” he says. “But we started failing at strategy execution because we’re using tools and frameworks that were built for command and control.”

Modern strategy execution requires more variety in the raw materials we use to innovate and pursue strategic goals. In today's economy, those raw materials are usually knowledge assets.

What Is Collective Genius?

“Collective genius is harnessing these knowledge assets that cross all sorts of boundaries — boundaries of discipline, organizational boundaries, boundaries across particular political ideologies — and leading to a more collaborative way to do strategic work,” Hutcheson says.

This requires a new set of tools and frameworks to help harness collective genius because most of the tools that are learned and applied are based on an older system.

“Collective genius is really the only way to make headway on our most complex challenges,” Hutcheson says.

>> Read: What Can You Do With an MBA With a Specialization in Innovation & Technology?

What Is Collaborative Innovation?

Collaborative innovation brings together people quickly to form action-oriented partnerships, move them toward measurable outcomes and make adjustments along the way.

“It has to be collaborative because innovation needs to occur across organizational, inter-organizational, intra-organizational boundaries and discipline boundaries,” Hutcheson says.

How Does Collaboration Lead to Innovation?

How do you innovate within an open, loosely connected network with limited resources, limited time and additional constraints? Hutcheson uses his work on the opioid crisis in rural America as an example.

“Think about all the challenges that we face in this aspect of health care,” he says. “No one’s in charge — not the hospital, not the police, not the doctors, not the pharmacists. So nobody's in charge, yet everyone is both contributing to and impacted by this crisis.

“How do you bring together a group of people where there is no command and control, but there are numerous power dynamics you have to negotiate?”

The answer is based on 20 years of research and practice conducted by Hutcheson and his colleagues. They looked at hundreds of examples of successful collaborative innovation and discovered that they all seemed to be asking and answering four questions and following 10 simple rules that govern complex behavior. From that, they developed a framework to achieve meaningful results when attempting to innovate collaboratively.

Hutcheson teaches these rules and the framework in the Technology Leadership and Innovation Department at Purdue.

An MBA With a Specialization in Innovation and Technology Can Help You Become a Better Innovator and Leader

“This kind of innovation is not for people who think they have the answers,” Hutcheson says. “It’s for those who recognize that the answers are probably divided into tiny little insights embedded in the knowledge and experience of lots of different people.”

The Purdue Online MBA with a specialization in Innovation and Technology Commercialization introduces students to the kinds of tools and frameworks Hutcheson discusses here. If you’d like more information about the program, reach out to a Purdue enrollment specialist today.