What is the main obstacle that stands in the way of sustainable long-term success for any business? I’d argue that it’s culture. A strong culture will recover from mistakes and figure out a way forward; while a weak one will never aim to evolve beyond what it already knows.
Much of what we think stands in the way of innovation is in our control: our attitude.
In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way; that’s an attitude most traditional organizations don’t have. I’ve made reference to this fact quite a bit in the past, and is a common topic of discussion among innovation wonks. One way to know if you are standing in your own way is to look at your organization from the perspective of “what are we doing to block innovation?”.
For example, do you have an organizational chart that looks like this?
Probably. This is how an organization where management is the enemy of innovation looks like, it’s also why most organizations can empathize with the following sketches:
Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done. pic.twitter.com/SpLD9Oiuvf
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) January 30, 2015
there's no safety in the status quo, so disrupt or be disrupted. pic.twitter.com/UANsggx6sQ
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) February 10, 2015
Can you see how your organization is deliberately killing innovation?
Bottom line: The default state of all new ideas is “NO”. New ideas have to be protected, they need to be given room to breathe. As a business leader, your jobs is to jumpstart progress by enabling innovation. They way to do that is to provide purpose, challenge and support; then get out of the way. That’s how you give ideas oxygen.
H/T: Vala Afshar.
A recent article in Fast Company touched on the topic of CIOs (Chief Innovation Officer) and how they’ve become more ubiquitous inside large organizations. This is an enterprise innovation tactic years in the making. But, do they actually mean anything?
My take is that in the CEOs call for innovation, there is also a jump for innovation by placing the responsibility for innovation on a single person: the Chief Innovation Officer. Frankly, the Chief Innovation Officer is more akin to placing blame on someone for being “disrupted”; other than the CEO. Why? Because it is a reactive move; not a proactive one.
The CIOs job is to maneuver the business around irrelevance. Giving someone a title can have unintended consequences such as ego driven decision making, which usually leads to blown opportunities and ideas that never had the chance to take off.
And that’s the problem.
If your organization is truly committed to innovation, which it should, then the CEO needs to be the CIO (chief Innovation Officer), period. His job is to set the context for innovation to happen anywhere in the organization; not just R&D, marketing, a team from McKinsey or some special forces team.
There are signs that will tell you when you’ve created an innovation primordial soup, one is ideas are valued more than hierarchy; not the other way around. To be clear, I’m not saying Chief Innovation Officers are worthless, I’m saying we shouldn’t see them as a sign that “innovation” is going to happen.
So, will Chief Innovation Officers still exist in five years? Hopefully not. The better question to ask is, “how might we change organizations so in the next 5 years innovation is expected and not mandated?”.
Bottom line: Innovation can’t be owned or mandated, it needs to be allowed. You can’t tell innovative people to be innovative, but you can let them. Unleash the black sheep and get out of their way; rest assured they’ll innovate.
This is a guest post by my friend and fellow Generalist, Arnold Beekes.
WTF! What is happening?
It is clear that we are in a period of time, which is called ‘transition’, the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. We are coming out of the Industrial Age (characterized by efficiency, repetition and thus standardization – building a ‘system of sameness’ in every aspect of life) into a new age, which some people call the Information Age. I am not sure about that name, Information Age, as I see information as, the enabler, rather than the purpose and intention in itself. I would like to call it the Age of Connection (characterized by creation, contribution and thus participation – building a ‘universe of uniqueness’), to be truly connected with ourselves, with others, animals and with nature.
But we are not there yet; we are really in this no man’s land, this limbo.…
We’re one week away from 2015, people will make their resolutions and try to keep them for a whole year; which usually doesn’t work out as planned. One resolution, an ongoing effort actually, that we should all aim for on a daily basis is that of making better decisions.
That means thinking better, which will have a cumulative effect in all else we do; including executing on our New Year resolutions.
A question I get asked often is something along the lines of , “How can I improve my ability to make better decisions?” To this, I respond with a counter question, “why do you think you make bad decisions in the first place?”
The reframing of the question, is good example of “what to do” to make better decisions. Thus, an easy way to make better decisions is to ask yourself questions, but that usually comes after you’ve done some grunt work to define a better question beforehand. …
Throughout this past year, I’ve been having conversations with innovation leaders from a couple of BIG companies about re-inventing their innovation capability. The pattern of conversation: we’ve had a good run, but feel that our process for making innovation happen is delivering incremental results. Bureaucracy has developed, and so we aren’t taking a lot of risks anymore. How do we shake ourselves out of it?
This is a classic situation of the initial innovation enthusiasm becoming stagnant because innovation’s main killers are not kept at bay: GroupThink and ExpertThink.
One leads to consensus, and the other to unchallenged best practices. In combination both lead to stagnation. Later on, it will become more difficult to innovate because silence and fear will become the norm. Then you will really have a challenge in your hands!…