Fortune has a special section on Innovation in the November 15 issue.
Bill Joy describes [sub. needed] succinctly why I left GE:
So why is innovation so hard for big companies? The main reason is that innovative people tend to prefer working in smaller organizations that have more focus and less bureaucracy. Even in small companies, adopting a large-company style can frustrate the innovators.
The problem with large companies isn’t that they fail to do large and seemingly ambitious projects; it’s that they fail to do small, quirky, controversial projects—truly innovative projects that wouldn’t be accepted by the organization at large but that have the potential to grow. (If everyone thinks an idea is okay, how can it be innovative?) A large organization—its missions threatened by new ideas—is often incredibly hostile to its own innovators; the antibodies to change are strong.
During my last years at GE, I was unconsciously trying to find small groups to work in. I found them more exciting. I found they had less overhead (i.e. less managerial interference, less politics, less PowerPoint presentations). I found I could be more creative and get more done. The last group I worked in had 6 people in it when I started. The product caught shortly after I got there and grew to about 70 in less than six months. I spent another 12 months there and finally decided to left GE. It was getting hard to find small places.
I spent two years working with my dad in a four person fabrication shop. I started enjoying myself again. We had lots of everything except money. We tried all sorts of things. It was fun.
I find the work I am doing with 800-CEO-READ to be the same. We are trying new things all the time. Some work and some don’t. Jack says throw it at the wall and we’ll see what sticks.
Innovation is about trying and you have to be given the opportunity to do some trying.