BothBrain® Innovation

Innovation often gets shortchanged in turbulent times. Traditional, left-brain-dominant business leaders typically can't tell the difference between good and bad innovations. Nor do they appreciate the skills needed to build and sustain a culture of creativity and constant reinvention. So they concentrate on cutting costs over R&D.

Bain & Company research, however, shows that a leadership strategy that successfully couples right-brain creative talents and left-brain management skills is the best way to ingrain innovation in a business–making it valued in all economic climates.

Bain's BothBrain Innovation tool utilizes the creative and the analytic talents within organizations to revolutionize new product and creative strategy development processes and to ensure efficient allocation of R&D.

With its origins in decades of Bain research into fashion companies--which live and die based on a constant stream of innovations–BothBrain is based on studies of a number of highly successful paired executives with complementary creative and analytic styles. For instance, Howard Schultz conceived the iconic Starbucks coffeehouse format while CEO Orin Smith oversaw the chain's rapid growth. Former track coach Bill Bowerman developed Nike's innovative running shoes while partner Phil Knight handled management, finance and sales. Both were essential to their company's success.

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Such duos as Apple CEO Steve Jobs and COO Tim Cook share seven characteristics common to success:

  • Awareness of strengths and weaknesses. Partners realistically assess what they do well and where they need help. They often joke openly about their own shortcomings to help others see the value of partnership.
  • Complementary cognitive skills. Partners seek those who balance their own working styles and decision-making approaches. They learn to draw on each other's capabilities to the proper degree and at the right times.
  • Trust. Partners trust each other and are willing to put each other's interests ahead of their own.
  • Raw intelligence. Partners bring insightful observations and good judgment to the team's decisions.
  • Relevant knowledge. Partners bring experience that applies directly to the challenges they face.
  • Strong communication channels. Partners speak to each other frequently and directly. They often work in the same or adjacent spaces.
  • Motivation. Partners are highly committed to the success of the business and each other.

Bain's BothBrain diagnostic and innovation expertise can help companies deliberately build a similar dual management base for generating and commercializing profitable ideas. It starts with a survey conducted with key personnel to assess an organization's performance on BothBrain principles, including the presence of commercial-creative partnerships, the ability to attract and retain commercial and creative talent and the use of quantitative and qualitative BothBrain tools and techniques in the innovation process. It is one of eight tools Bain uses to assess innovation performance and to identify solutions to foster continued innovation.