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Driving Innovation

September 20, 2011

By Laurie Clarke, COO, The Tatham Group

How will the Competence E project use $273 million and 250 scientists change the world?  As Andreas Gutsch, project head, explains:  “We are no longer focused on studying individual molecules or components, but on developing solutions on the system level…We are conducting excellent research for application, not for the drawer.”  The research he is talking about is to make electric vehicles less costly to manufacture and therefore more affordable to the mass market.  The project is outlined in detail in the article German Scientists Plan to Halve The Cost Of Electric Vehicles from Fast Company.

Beyond the futuristic aesthetics of the new Chevy Volt and idea of everyone driving environmentally friendly vehicles,  I get excited when innovative thinking breaks down the barriers of academia, commercial industry and government for a greater good.  It is refreshing to hear that a leader is beginning a project and structuring its plan on systemic level.  So much of our organizational structure, way of thinking, organizing and executing is broken into narrowly focused pieces.  Even experts in change and execution sit in their own silos.  Instead of putting up barriers in the first place, project teams often spend most of their time breaking down the walls to get things done.

As leaders in the industry, they know that the key to success is to have a diverse group of people involved, create prototypes for action-based learning and experimentation and to constantly think how the learning can be applied for results.  This is an environment that innovation can thrive within!

I’m looking forward to following this project and watching the German approach cross the finish line far before the talked about and theorized approaches that are being compared.