Why most businesses aren’t prepared to embrace what’s necessary to actually innovate

innovate or dieNot all entrepreneurs are innovators, only a handful. The result is that the vast majority of businesses out in the world were not born from creative ideas, rather derivatives. And when these non-innovative businesses want to explore innovation, they enter a dilemma: In order to innovate, an existing business must keep running the core business while also trying to find the revolution; exploit and explore.

Most businesses are not prepared to embrace that challenge…

It’s the 2nd week of the year and I’ve already talked to a few owners of established businesses who are in this situation, talking about taking steps to create new revenue streams through new products and services.

Here’s an example, two businesses owners I talked to are in a situation where they have a robust core business but also know that they can only optimize it for so long. But, also have an opportunity to start something new with unique assets and know how they’ve accumulated. Yet, they’re scared shitless to try something new.

Surprised?

Not really. The truth is most established businesses are not prepared to embrace true innovation because it means killing ones existing cash cow to create a new one; in essence they risk putting themselves out of business with no guarantee of success.

That is what it means to disrupt yourself, which makes for a great conversation but nothing gets done when it comes to actually taking action.

In an interview with Strategy+Business, Bran Ferren, former President of R&D for Disney, talked about how bravery and playing the odds is what it takes to innovate:

S+B: Most companies, of course, want to produce that more deliberate kind of innovation — one they can profit from.

FERREN: Yes, but they don’t understand what that means. If you had shown them the iPhone 10 years ago and said, “This will be the future of how civilization works,” they would have said, “No, it won’t.” In fact, some companies looked at this space and elected not to pursue it.

This is because their innovation process doesn’t give their leadership a context for thinking about profound innovation. In a conventional company, an innovation process is often a substitution for creativity and thoughtfulness. Companies have come to us and asked for something like “disruptive innovation.” It is fashionable and they’ve read about it; they don’t know why they need it, but they hope it will help. However, they are seldom prepared to embrace what’s necessary to actually do this.

The last part is key, most businesses are not prepared to embrace what’s necessary to innovate; I’m not talking about the superficial tactics you can read about in articles and blog posts, but the mindset and attitude.

Ferren then continues…

Bravery is often necessary for success in creativity, and bravery, like business acumen, often involves what others would consider risky behavior. So if you are risk-averse, by definition you generally won’t do the things that are necessary to accomplish these sorts of breakthroughs, because you may have to bet the farm every time you do those things.

Again, look at any innovate organization and it’s safe to say that is has a history of bravery; it’s part of their DNA. That’s because innovative leadership is different from traditional leadership, for true innovation does not result in incremental improvements; rather transformation.

When most business leaders are happy optimizing their core into irrelevance, which ends in Napster moments, innovate leaders are deliberately finding the revolution before it finds them.

So, innovate, not iterate, or you’ll die; it’s true.

I recommend you read the whole article, it’s one of the most authentic I’ve read in a long time.