The golden spur: innovation independence

Liisa Välikangas (Managing Director of Woodside Institute, Portola Valley, California, USA.)
Quintus Jett (Visiting Associate Professor of Engineering Management at Dartmouth College, Hanover, Germany.)

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Publication date: 1 September 2006



The authors argue that the “freedom to explore” factor is essential to innovation. And innovation is essential to sustained competitiveness. Today's leadership challenge is learning to manage the independent thinkers who refuse the constraints of professionalism and instead innovate on their own terms – in other words, as amateurs.


The authors believe that only amateurs can move from field to field, finding creativity in the convergence of technology and the combinatorial possibilities found when crossing different industries and professional specialties.


At a leading nationwide retailer, a group of people has formed an initiative to create a market place of ideas and talent. Anyone can pitch a project and invite others to join it. The hypothesis is that such an avenue for ideas and commitment will increase productivity and address an endemic scarcity of resources. This freedom is facilitated by communications technologies that enable individuals to participate increasingly on their own terms.

Practical implications

Companies need to unleash their human talent and raise their level of innovation so that they can compete globally. To accomplish this, managers must respect their employees' independence – the very source of innovation.


The authors argue that the case for innovation is the case for the labor of love, that is, the work of passionate amateurs.



Välikangas, L. and Jett, Q. (2006), "The golden spur: innovation independence", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 41-45.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.