Your Need For Certainty Kills Innovation

There's No Innovation Without Uncertainty

Innovation is as much about attitude and perspective as it is about process. It’s an uncertain path that tests women and men’s mental and emotional fortitude; it’s not for everybody.

As innovators we have fight against human nature; our own and that from our fellow humans. The fear of not knowing is the main enemy of this story, which takes constant vigilance and engagement.

In the summer I received an email from the Global Director of Innovation from a very well known brand. She wanted to know if I was interested in helping them rethink how they develop disruptive offerings, because they had been engaged with a larger consultancy but didn’t want to spend months engaged in a process; rather they wanted to move faster.

Last week the CIO of a large Mexican multinational told me they had been engaged by McKinsey a few months before. He explained that his company was not interested in engaging with them because large consultancies take a lot of time and money; they wanted to move faster.

Both these companies thrive in uncertainty. Contrary to them, there are those who need more certainty. For example, over a year ago a Telematics company reached out to me to see how I could help with a new IoT solution they had built but didn’t know what to do with it. They’d been engaged with an “innovation consultancy” for 6 months, but made no progress.

Their jaws dropped when I presented my approach, which is a couple of weeks at most. Not because they thought I was wrong, but because they felt it lacked rigor.

What’s the pattern?

There’s no innovation without uncertainty

Wise companies understand that slow movers, those that are extremely risk averse, will perish. Slow movers want to analyze everything before jumping in; these are the types who hire the McKinsey’s of the world. But large consultancies, like McKinsey, that take a lot of time and money to do optimizations should not be advising companies that want to move fast.

Why? Because if they’re slow movers your company will be a slow mover. Put another way: you won’t change if you hang out with people who think and act like you; transformation is about getting out of your comfort zone, not staying in it.

Businesses that value certainty benefit the most from long drawn out analysis and processes because they believe in analyzing their way to the future. Put simply: You pay for the expectation of certainty when you work with a McKinsey because of their analytical rigor; yet innovation is anything but certain.

Large organizations that want to move fast like startups will learn more from those that move fast; which means less drawn out processes and more experimentation.

If you want to change the game aim to surprise. Ask yourself: how can we disrupt the competitive landscape of this industry by delivering an unexpected solution?

An in depth analysis won’t help you figure this out, you have to jump in and try!