A few days ago I mentioned that I had been receiving a lot of inquiries about developing an innovation capability, cultural development, and why this matters to avoid systemic failure. My post touched upon feedback as the shortest path to innovation and how people need it to learn.
This is the essence of agility, the ability to move quicker, learn faster, understand what works and doesn’t, and shift direction if needed. In the world that big organizations live in, agility is not business as usual. Rather, life inside a large organizations feels like you are going backwards, not forward.
Inside large organization’s, the common obstacle innovator’s have to overcome to get traction is getting permission to innovate. Of course, in a perfect world innovation shouldn’t require permission, but we don’t live in that perfect world. So, most of the time, permission won’t be granted.
Innovation is killed with the two deadliest words in business: Prove it.
For example, here is an email from a person responding to a recent blog post by Brad Feld about agility:
Sound familiar? Could the same situation, dismissing key issues that enable progress, be happening inside your organization? You bet!
Better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission
It is fairly simple to anticipate, and predict, what “non-innovative” behaviors look like. The situation that is explained in the above email is quite common, both in what it is about (technology) and how it is perceived (costly). Heck, there are lists all over the web of x reasons why you can’t innovate: following the old rules, while not identifying when they’ve reached their expiration date, and dismissing the new is one of them.
The situation above is one that innovative companies deliberately try to avoid by giving people permission to experiment. And, the way employees prove their hypotheses is by coming back with data, both quantitative and qualitative, about their findings. And it is done very fast. As I wrote last week, feedback is the shortest path to innovation.
A company that does this well, and shows what a culture of innovation looks like, is Intuit.
So, want to innovate? Don’t wait for permission. Better yet, it shouldn’t be necessary to ask for permission or forgiveness. Let’s aim for that!
P.s. You can take the situation above and add it to your “what not to do” list of examples of non-innovative behaviors.