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Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)


American Harvard Business School professor and expert in innovation and change in organizations (pictured right).


See also...

Rosabeth Moss Kanter in the Management Gurus section. 

 Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)

Book summary


What is innovation?

Innovation isn’t just new product development but is:

“the generation, acceptance and implementation of new ideas, processes, products and services”

Innovation is carried out by “corporate entrepreneurs” and involves:

  • creativity, change and customer satisfaction.
  • big innovation projects and small improvements (“quiet innovation”).


Causes of innovation

 Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)

1. Integrative thinking

This is:

  • pro-change.
  • sees a problem as a whole.
  • integrates different managerial activities and areas of knowledge.

This contrasts with anti-innovative “segmentalism” where people

  • are against change.
  • see problems within their narrow specialisms (without regard to wider, interrelated issues).

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984) 

2. Breaking down organizational barriers

The organization-wide, free exchange of information through:

  • constructive conflict and debate.  
  • open communication (the “airwaves of innovation”).

Innovation requires that creative conflict is focused on common aims (like customer satisfaction).


3. Cross-functional teams

Combining people in teams from different functions, so that different views can be shared.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984) 

4. Empowerment

Encouraging people to take responsibility for innovation problem solving by:


a) the “power tools” for innovation

  • information.
  • resources.
  • support.


b) autonomy

Giving individuals and teams the power to make their own decisions.

 Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)

c) common purpose

Creating commitment to:

  • common aims.
  • a shared philosophy.


d) rewards

Rewarding innovation and performance.


e) fulfilling and secure employmentRosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)

  • interesting work.
  • employment security.
  • a family feeling amongst employees.
  • socializing outside work


f) job mobility 

(so that people learn from jobs and develop a network of contacts).


g) education and training

 Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)

h) respect

  • putting people first (not the bureaucratic system).
  • respecting people’s competence and human dignity.
  • mutual trust and respect


5. Strategy and vision

A long term innovation strategy based upon an inspiring vision of the future.

 Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)

6. Encouragement of learning

Openly debate and challenge existing ideas and problems without being tempted by easy (but incorrect) solutions.


7. Structure

  • keeping structure as simple as possible.
  • minimizing layers of management to make decision making quicker.
  • having a “parallel organization” with multi-disciplinary work alongside traditional administrative departments.
  • decentralizing resources so they are freely available to individuals and teams.

 Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (1984)

8. Change

Innovative companies keep what’s good in their past (like their values) but abandon bad behaviour (particularly resistance to change and innovation).

“The change master is partly a historian who knows which pieces of the past to preserve and honour while moving toward a different future”, says Kanter.


Key quote on innovation

Innovation requires a trust in the future.


Key quote on creativity

The source of new ideas is people.


Key quote on human resource management

The companies with a commitment to human resources were significantly higher in long-term profitability


Key quotes on change

The change master is partly a historian who knows which period of the past to honour and preserve while moving toward a different future.

Our transforming era requires not only that we change our practices in response but also that we change the way we think about what we do.


Key quote on America

Where America leads, it leads because of innovation.

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