Ideas and Innovative Organizations

A Tribal Perspective

by Albert H. Segars (Author)
©2020 Monographs XII, 156 Pages


A tribal approach to innovation is found within cutting-edge organizations that pursue ideas and initiatives that are extraordinary. This approach is driven by groups of people that have an ambitious mandate, positive values or codes of conduct, well-defined roles, robust flows of knowledge, the ability to endure hardship, an analytical focus, and a willingness to sacrifice. Together, these attributes signal a favorable predisposition to discover breakthrough ideas and navigate difficult projects. This approach is manifest in modern day super projects such as the Event Horizon Telescope as well as historical initiatives such as the invention of flight by the Wright Brothers. For leaders and team members, the tribal framework provides a perspective for measuring the capacity of a team to generate novel ideas and see those ideas through to a successful conclusion.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Introduction
  • 1 tribes, tribalism, and tribal instincts
  • Tribes and Tribalism
  • Developing a Definitional Lens
  • Tribal Instincts
  • Tribe or Rogue Actors?
  • A Tribe of One
  • Vision
  • Engagement
  • Approach
  • 2 ambition
  • Wear It on Your Sleeve
  • Create a Worthy Cause
  • Make the Tedious Worthwhile
  • Chase Breakthrough Ideas (That Do Not Want to Be Found)
  • Explore the Possibilities
  • Narrative Building
  • Ask a Bigger Question
  • Frame the Solution Space
  • 3 emergent structure
  • Structure and Innovation: A Novel Partnership
  • Consensus
  • Human Touch
  • Resourcefulness
  • Ceremony
  • Storytelling
  • Loyalty
  • 4 roles and responsibilities
  • Critical Roles
  • Matching Talent with Roles
  • Find Your Identity
  • 5 trust
  • The Standard of Trust
  • Credibility
  • Efficacy
  • Commitment
  • Resolve
  • Consistency
  • Accountability
  • The Manifestation of Trust: Knowledge and Knowledge Flows
  • Knowledge Capability
  • Infrastructure Capabilities
  • Process Capabilities
  • The Flow of Knowledge
  • 6 navigation
  • Chains of Logic
  • Shifting Outcomes
  • Three Deadly Responses
  • Conventional Wisdom and Numbers
  • 7 perseverance
  • Dimensions of Perseverance
  • Risk Management
  • Structure
  • Technological Experience
  • Scope
  • 8 sacrifice
  • Personal Sacrifice
  • Organizational Sacrifice
  • Organizations in Context
  • Process
  • People
  • Technology
  • Chain of Logic
  • Investment Triage
  • Legacy
  • Falling Stars
  • Rising Stars
  • Stars
  • 9 tribal spirit
  • Eight Innovative Ways to Kill Innovation
  • Assign Innovation to a Czar or Committee
  • Idea Campaigns
  • Hire Innovation
  • Outsource Innovation
  • Make Innovation a Holiday
  • Blame Innovation for Past Failure
  • Automate Innovation
  • Reward Leaps of Certainty
  • Finding Your Tribal Spirit
  • The Feathering of Finding Your Way
  • The Shaft of Connectedness
  • The Flame of the Journey
  • The Point of Perseverance
  • Concluding Thoughts
  • Appendix—The Super Projects
  • Event Horizon Telescope
  • MIT’s Broad Institute
  • India’s Mars Orbiter
  • Cal Tech’s Space Solar Power Project
  • Korea’s Robot Research Initiative
  • Open AI
  • New Horizons (NASA)
  • Berkeley Lab
  • Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA)


Home is a place where, when you go there, they have to take you in

— Robert Frost

I have always wanted to be on the solution side of the equation. Therefore, I chose to be a scientist and embark on a career of exploration and discovery. I think this path found its seeding in the Apollo space exploration program of the 1970s. This program and its ambitious goal of landing humans on the moon found its way into my imagination and, for many elementary school kids growing up in the 1970s, became an embodiment of “magic” through creativity, engineering, science, and big ideas. For a moment in time, there were bigger ambitions, worlds to explore, and an army of wide-eyed dreamers ready to apply their talents to solving complex problems. Throughout history, times like these come and go based on cycles of technological innovation, generational trends, and the “give and take” of societal needs. There are periods of technological revolution which usher in dynamic change as well as periods of “in between” where change is more incremental.

Through several research projects, consulting engagements, and firsthand experience. I have enjoyed access to labs, think tanks, start-ups, as well as “skunk works” within established organizations that are investigating, developing, and converting cutting-edge technologies into viable products ←1 | 2→and services.1 The ideas, discoveries, and breakthroughs observed from these organizations are incredible; in many respects, their efforts are the “tip of the spear” in terms of pioneering new frontiers. Therefore, understanding “why” they routinely discover new ideas and how they turn them into new avenues of value is to learn from the most “innovative of the innovative”. It is also a chance to rediscover some of the big thinking and innovative work that chronicles not only a program like Apollo but any innovative effort that results in a breakthrough idea.


XII, 156
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XII, 156 pp., 26 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Albert H. Segars (Author)

Albert H. Segars is the PNC Bank Distinguished Professor at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business. He has held posts in research and development with The United States Department of Defense, IBM, and The Defense Research Projects Agency. Segars' research in innovation, technology management, and entrepreneurship has been featured in The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, MIT Sloan Management Review, California Management Review as well as numerous academic journals. His work has also been recognized as "best in class" by The Society for Information Management and The Society for Logistics Engineers. His earned his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. He earned his undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of North Carolina.


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170 pages