Resources and Scale Don’t Guarantee Innovation

creativity loves constraintsI was recently invited to talk at INIDE University to a group of MBA students about how to manage for innovation. As I mentioned on my previous post,  managing for innovation means optimizing the core while exploring the future; these students already hold management positions in their organizations so this topic is important; and new to them.

Unless you are a Google, Amazon, Apple, Pixar or one of the most innovative companies on the planet, managing for innovation inside large established organizations is business unusual.

In the video below (in spanish), a woman who works for a waste management company gave me her reasons why innovation is not a day to day activity at her company:

Here are her excuses:

Maintain the status-quo or risk getting fired

It’s hard to change when they’ve been doing things the same way for such a long time that challenging existing practices, and taking action without permission, will likely get you fired.

Let me put it to you this way: innovators don’t wait until it’s too late to change, they change before they have to; without asking for permission.

If you wait for opportunities to occur, you will be one of the crowd.

We’re not Google

A common excuse in established organizations is that they are not Google: we can’t innovate because we don’t have the amount of resources and scale they have.

Google’s scale and resources is the reason why they’re the most innovative company on the planet? No. There’s more than meets they eye, not just for Google.

Yes, Google is unique; but not just because of their resources and scale. They’re unique in how they been able to grow and put those resources and scale to use. It’s all anchored by cultural mindset to improve the state of the world through technology; money provides them resources to do that.

Interestingly, with all it’s resources and scale, one of Google’s principles for innovation is embracing constraints.

Losing money is not fun

Finally, she mentioned she exists to make money, not to lose money. If all your reason for being is to make money, then you’re not an innovator; and most likely you’ll always be jumping from one job to another looking for a bigger payday.

Good luck being relevant with that mindset.

Companies that once dominated their industry have been disrupted by innovative startups because they kept playing the same game for too long (remember Blockbuster and Kodak?) People and organizations that play not to lose always end up losing in the long run. Playing to win means focusing on improving the now while finding your next revolution; that is how innovative organizations like Google future-proof themselves.

The above excuses are all common innovation challenges that organizations of all sizes encounter and must take deliberate action to eliminate. There are lessons from innovative businesses like Google, Pixar, Apple, Amazon and others that you can take and apply in your business; nobody has a monopoly on innovation.

Bottom line: Where fear is rampant, innovation dies.