Innovation is risky business. For companies pursuing sustainable innovations, these risks take on the scale of the effort and the context of the problems, the politics, and the markets involved. The most important aspect of this challenge to sustainable innovation is understanding the nature of risk at work. Without this understanding, innovation efforts are paralyzed and innovation policies—especially those intending to promote new investments—stifle them instead.
How can companies make the right decisions—for their communities, for their people, and for the environment—when governance laws force a (relatively) narrow focus on maximizing shareholder value?
The NYT article on Apple and employment, How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work , offers valuable insights into the future of manufacturing. But there is a way out. The story sheds light on the huge manufacturing infrastructure—some 700,000 employees strong—that manufactures Apple products in Shenzhen, China, and around the world. This is the future of manufacturing; its not ours and will likely never be. Three aspects of this story deserve pointing out.
Organizational leadership is a contradiction in terms. The essence of organization is routine, conventional behavior, bound by the standards of knowledge, morality, and legality of the time, The essence of leadership, on the other hand, is escaping the routine, the standard, and the contemporary to implement a new morality, knowledge, and legality quite different from that seen by others. Leadership is pre-eminently anti-organizational. Leaders confront organizations rather than build or serve them. Thus, to speak of the CEOs of business firms, the presidents of labor unions, the directors of governmental agencies, and the commanders of conventional military units as leaders is absurd. They are not and could not be. Leadership will always come from outside organizations and will always be resisted by individuals who are conventional and reliable enough to be given formal positions of authority. There is no possibility of an organizational career for anyone with true leadership capabilities and instincts.
Jim March and Therry Weil (p38) [On Leadership](http://www.amazon.com/Leadership-James-G-March/dp/1405132477)
Few of my students ever have, or ever will, walk a manufacturing line. Without that experience, it's hard to understand how much innovation goes into building even simple products that lies beyond the surface "design."