wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1943- )Rosabeth Moss Kanter


American Harvard Business School professor and expert in innovation and change in organizations (pictured right).


Key books


Men and Women of the Corporation (1977)

A study of a company which treated women as socially inferior and excluded them from positions of power.

This powerlessness is the key issue (not sex discrimination), because “power begets power”.


Key quote on empowerment

Powerlessness corrupts. Absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely.



The Change Masters (1984)

(see for more detail The Change Masters in the Business Books section)


Innovation isn’t just new product development but is “the process of bringing any new, problem-solving idea into use”, involving:

  • creativity.
  • change.
  • customer satisfaction.


Innovation results from:


1. Integrative problem solving

This is based on holistic thinking -

i.e. seeing a problem as a whole and integrating different managerial activities and areas of knowledge.

This contrasts with anti-innovative segmentalist problem solving -

i.e. people work in isolation without regard to wider, interrelated issues.


2. Breaking down organizational barriers

Organization-wide exchange of information, conflict and debate to achive common aims.


3. Cross-functional teams

Combining people in teams from different functions, so that different views can be shared.


4. Empowerment 

Encouraging people to take responsibility for innovative problem solving by creating:

  • common aims.
  • employment security.
  • mutual trust.
  • interesting work.
  • power tools for innovation (information, resources and support).


5. Vision 

An inspiring vision of the future.


6. Encouragement of learning

Openly debate and challenge existing ideas and problems without being tempted by easy (but incorrect) solutions.


Key quotes on innovation

Innovation requires a trust in the future.

The change master is partly a historian who knows which period of the past to honour and preserve while moving toward a different future.



When Giants Learn to Dance (1989)

Big companies must be “post-entrepreneurial”, combining:

  • creativity.
  • revolutionary change.
  • teamwork.
  • co-operation to achieve common aims.


They are:


1. Fast 

(quickly responding to customer requirements).


2. Flexible 

(adaptable to change).


3. Friendly (to employees).


4. Focused (on maximizing value to customers).


Managers must inspire people’s co-operation and empowerment and be aware of the paradox that “creating change requires stability”.

Business success also requires:

  • ethics.
  • humility to learn.


Key quotes on innovation

Post-entrepreneurial companies want a climate for innovation in which every employee feels that innovation is part of his or her job.


Key quote on empowerment

The power of the position is giving way to the power of the person.

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