10 Signs You’re Just Going Through the Motions Of Innovation

Anything worth doing in life will challenge you. Our minds and bodies want to take the path of least resistance. By pushing yourself, you will get the most out of life. Like people, organizations are the same; most organizations simply go through the motions of innovation. They mistake innovation work for efficient work, but innovation is messy. It’s the opposite of business as usual, it aims to change business as usual for the better.

I’ve consulted plenty of organizations that go through the motions of innovation; not really doing anything. I’ve identified a few things, so as a business leader here are 10 signs you’re just going through the motions of innovation:

  1. You talk about it. Yeah, you talk about it but that’s where things stay. There’s no follow through, no actual game plan to get started.
  2. You discuss it. This is when an employee might come up with a new idea on how to improve some operational inefficiency, a customer challenge or something else. You discuss it, but that’s where it stays.
  3. You try a few things. Let’s say you talked about it, discussed it and decided to follow through on some ideas but shut it all down as soon as something doesn’t work.
  4. You make excuses. The excuses are plenty, it all starts with “but this, that, then, not”.
  5. You don’t change the people around you. Innovation requires diversity of thought and perspective. Your team, is very likely, made up of people who think the same. Where all think alike nobody thinks very much; homogeneous organizations breed failure.
  6. You overevaluate ideas and shun the ones that seem like a threat to the status quo. Most new ideas are killed before they even get a chance to be born; specifically ones that challenge the status quo.
  7. You celebrate the present. You impede innovation when your employees are paid for keeping things running smoothly. Innovation requires both winning the present and the future; you have to protect the future, not the past.
  8. You punish speaking up, risk taking and mistakes. Mistakes will be made, and they must be made. “My team’s job is to fail as much as possible” said no manager who’s paid to play it safe. But fail is exactly what your team needs to be doing if it’s exploring unknown territory while they’re improving a customer’s outcome.
  9. You believe you have it all figured out. This is about hubris and procrastination. Truth is, you don’t know shit and you can’t wait until you think you’re ready. You either drive disruption or are outpaced by it.
  10. You play the game not to lose. Most organizations become risk averse as soon as they have some success; they start protecting the status quo. They have to realize and understand that success breeds failure.

These are just 10 I came up with in a few minutes, but there are many more.

Bottom line: The people and organizations who have set standard for innovation play the long game, try more stuff, fail more, learn from their mistakes and iterate faster.