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Should senior managers at brands 'back off' so innovation can thrive? The Marketing Society Forum

A former P&G development head says 'over-managing' is 'killing the golden goose' of innovation.

NO - MATTHEW BARWELL, MARKETING AND INNOVATION MANAGER, DIAGEO WESTERN EUROPE

On the contrary, it is imperative that senior management creates a culture where innovation and creativity can flourish.

The tone and the propensity for risk needs to be set at the top of an organisation, and senior leaders have a key role in establishing this. They must provide clear strategic direction, sponsor key initiatives and free up resources.

Project teams can then be free to experiment, be dynamic and take risks, knowing they have support across the organisation.

When senior management shares ownership of innovation, there's freedom for challenges and disappointments to be talked about openly, and to shout about successes.

NO - STEPHEN MAHER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MBA

Brands should be close to creativity and fully embrace it. Ideas and innovation can drive us out of recession.

Senior managers at the most dynamic companies often make it their duty to foster an environment for creativity to flourish.

This does not mean that they micro-manage teams, but it needs to be clear from their leadership that they welcome lateral thinking, even if this approach doesn't lead to success every time.

From many innovations will come great advances, and as long as those generating the ideas know that this is acceptable company culture, nobody will need to back off. 'Backing', rather than 'back off', should be the mantra.

NO - ANDREW MCGUINNESS, FOUNDING PARTNER, BEATTIE MCGUINNESS BUNGAY

Creative innovation requires an understanding of what needs to be done and its value, empathy with the individuals whose responsibility it is to deliver it, and the appetite to overcome the barriers that inevitably crop up.

While this is as true for coming up with a brand as it is for implementing an accounting system, innovation demands doing something that hasn't been done before, and this brings risk.

Skilled senior managers appreciate this, creating a culture in which the process of invention and those behind it feel supported, energised and appreciated.

If they don't foster such a culture, then they shouldn't be senior managers.

NO - CHRIS LEWIS, INDEPENDENT FMCG MARKETING PROFESSIONAL

The senior team should of course empower a team of creative professionals to do a great job and generate successful ideas.

However, rather than excluding, the clever marketer listens, includes and involves senior management.

Having launched innovations in five very different food and drink companies, I can say that achieving senior management buy-in greatly facilitates the innovation process.

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