Innovation isn’t a job

The corporate innovation struggle is real, they all want it. So to make their innovation dreams real, companies are now making innovation everyone’s job by making it a prerequisite for job searchers, and also putting “innovation” related words and activities in existing employees job descriptions.

Good try, but it’s not enough.

The litmus test for all of these “innovation enhancing activities” is after you’ve let them know that their job now includes innovation, train them do so, will you let the misfits run the asylum?

Yes, I had to go there.

You see, you can’t tell people to be innovative when you won’t let them be; you can’t mandate innovation.

There are many “stimulants” to help enable corporate innovation, one is to create a role that’s in charge of it: Chief Innovation Officer.

But unless this role is seen as an enabler for innovation, not a manager, and everyone gets out of the way; it won’t survive. My point is that anyone with a formal job description that has innovation in their title is operating on borrowed time, because corporate mindset is all about maximizing profits; and true innovation cuts into that.

Have you ever heard of innovative companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix, Tesla, SpaceX, anyone with guts, have a designated person in charge of innovation?

Yes, the founder and CEO. Who set the standard, the culture, which drives all decisions and actions. Many corporations struggle to innovate because their culture impedes it, even with a designated person in charge of it and all, so most initiatives die off quickly with not time given to spread its wings.

The reason is simple: protect the existing cash cow at all costs.

Remember, most corporate innovation is reactive and incremental. They all want true innovation, but don’t understand what that means and what it takes.

Corporations will be corporations, doing what corporations do: keep milking the cow to maximize profit while minimizing costs, optimizing the core business, creating the illusion of long-term relevance.

And innovators will do what innovators do: create the future.

A better way to look at “innovation is everyone’s job” is: Not everyone is cut out to be an innovator, but everyone can point out things that can be done better.

I know, for a fact, that innovators don’t view themselves as carrying out a job, rather they do what they do because they feel deeply that there’s a better way. That motivates them to put their talents into action; without asking for permission.

How many corporations have that built-in mindset?

Innovation isn’t a job, it’s a mindset. Ask yourself, do you get up excited everyday to do a job?

“Hey guys, stop what you’re doing it’s time to do innovation work because it’s also part of our job; let’s go!”


People have to give a damn about the outcome, innovation, to take it personal and see it as part of their role; most don’t.

You can apply all the innovation driving tactics you want, but it isn’t enough without the mindset and attitude needed to back it up, as well as the understanding that it doesn’t happen in a predictable corporate way. And that only happens organically when it’s part of the culture; not an add on. All innovation driven cultures have things in common, look there for inspiration; you’ll find it.

The truth is that most corporations have the talent, ideas and resources necessary to innovate, the problem is cultural. So the next time you decide your business needs to be more innovative, your first job is not to do a re-org or hire a bunch of consultants. Your first job is to change your mindset, change your culture.

Easier said than done, but it isn’t supposed to be easy.