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5 March 2014: David Lawrence, Syngenta

Managing Innovation: an oxymoron? David Lawrence, Syngenta

Managing Innovation: an oxymoron?

David Lawrence, Syngenta

This talk took place on Thursday, 5 March at 4pm at the LLT, Department of Plant Sciences.

Arguably humans have become the dominant life form on earth because of our ability to adapt and innovate. Technology innovation has changed our lives, and generated huge economic benefits for those who manage to take the innovations to market, and many companies invest billions of pounds between them searching for new ones.

However, the reality raises some surprising questions, such as:

• Why do few companies survive longer than 50 years, despite investing in R&D?

• Why is technological progress often faster in times of war?

• Why do smaller companies seem to be more innovative than large ones?

The thrust of this talk is that the greater the need and demand for innovation, the more likely it is that the processes and behaviours will mitigate against it.

The speaker draws on his own experiences in rebuilding creative product pipelines in Syngenta, following the merger of the agribusinesses of Novartis and Zeneca, to draw out some important learnings on how to keep alive a culture of insight, creativity and innovation. At around the same time as the empirical learning, advances in the study of brain function in relation to creativity has started to provide insights into why some of the techniques work, and why the behaviours needed sit more easily in small companies and start-ups.

Which leads back to the critical question: is it really possible to manage teams in a way which increases the chances of being successful innovators.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars series.