How Do You Innovate from the Inside?

Innovation is hard. Really hard; especially inside established organizations. And most people, and organizations, are not up to the challenge. The reasons are many, but innovation does happen in spite of those challenges.


Change agents take matters into their own hands and fight the corporate antibodies. At least that’s been my experience; they don’t call me innovation insurgent for nothing 🙂

It goes a little something like this:

  1. Change agent is dissatisfied with the way things are done and believes there are some stupid rules that impede exponential impact;
  2. Change agent comes up with a better way;
  3. Change agent develops a quick plan of attack where he can start small and focus on the biggest things he can remove that deliver the biggest impact without screwing everything else up;
  4. Change agent experiments, iterates and learns what works and what doesn’t;
  5. Change agent figures out what works and gets some quick wins that get attention;
  6. Change agent develops enemies that see him / her as a threat because his / hers idea changes the game;
  7. Change agent pushes forward and continues until he / she gets followers on-board who believe in the person and idea;
  8. Change agent develops power as the idea gets traction and more followers across the organization.

The above approach is quite common, but most of the time never works precisely because the corporate antibodies squash the change agent. Check out the movie Patch Adams to watch how a change agent operates.

Here’s an interview I did a while ago where I talk about my story at FedEx, and how I acted as a change agent:

There are people in every organization who see a better way to do things. As I’ve written many times before, these people need to be unleashed; not squashed.  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Organizations that want organic innovation to come from within must cultivate a culture that has a growth mindset; one that values experimentation, learning and risk taking.

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