Many years ago, more than I'd like to remember, I published a book with Jack Behrman, entitled Overseas R&D Activities of Transnational Corporations, and in that book we briefly considered "Centers of Excellence." At the time, I was underwhelmed by the concept, but today, in a Leading the Global Enterprise [IMD's new program] discussion of innovation in a global organization, the wisdom of Centers of Excellence became more apparent.
What we know from the Virtuoso Teams project is that: dedicated teams are important; physical intimacy in work-areas desirable; in-touch leadership essential; and we also know from decades of economic examination that there are economies of scale associated with R&D and innovative teams. So, how to achieve these in globally dispersed organization? My sense is that we should be reconsidering Centers of Excellence on a global scale, as they may offer the best organizational platform for achieving many of the elements associated with successful "big" change.