When the old Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite back in 1957, it beat its rival US into space, and prompted the creation of a special unit in the Pentagon that was designed to make sure this never happened again. Called the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency – or DARPA – the unit was making significant progress until it was side lined by the creation of NASA in late 1958, and funding shifted. How could DARPA continue to function on a much reduced budget, and with little public awareness?
This is what really interested me, and prompted me to include it as a case study in my series of lectures on Innovation and Design Management. What I discovered was that DARPA adopted a completely revolutionary business model, appointing specialist teams on a project by project basis, all working to fixed budgets and deadlines. It was not always necessary to have people working on site, and team members left mid-project if they were no longer required. Yet DARPA has racked up a string of successes, proving that creative management leads to greater creativity. Good to know.
Dig deeper –
Invention or innovation?
Is it better to be first or best?
What drives innovation?