One of my favorite magazines, Harvard Business Review (HBR), in its latest June issue has an article called “The Ambidextrous CEO” that is worth reading because it highlights innovation in healthcare IT (with a good story from Misys), specifically around open source. Here’s a point they made that’s worth repeating:
Our research suggests that firms thrive when senior teams embrace the tension between old and new and foster a state of constant creative conflict at the top. We call this leading ambidextrously. We conducted an in-depth study of 12 top-management teams at major companies and identified three leadership principles that help firms grow their core businesses even as they cultivate new offerings that will reshape their industries: (1) Engage the senior team around a forward-looking strategic aspiration. (2) Explicitly hold the tension between the demands of innovation units and the core business at the top of the organization. (3) Embrace inconsistency by maintaining multiple and often conflicting strategic agendas.
They go on to talk about the value open source brought to Misys and how it goes senior management attention:
At the height of the financial crisis, he gave it an even stronger organizational voice: Open Source was the only Misys health care asset not folded into the core Allscripts unit. This permitted Open Source leaders to sit at the table with Allscripts top executives and compete for resources. Every strategic move involved trade-offs between more-immediate returns from Allscripts and longer-term returns from Open Source. The tensions reflected the power struggle over the firm’s identity and future. For example, the head of Allscripts wanted his proprietary software to dominate, and he saw Open Source as a direct threat. His fears proved well-founded; Open Source soon started to beat out Allscripts for contracts.