In a recent blog, I argued that management needs to be accountable not only for delivering current performance but also for investing in power initiatives that will fuel future performance. Compensation systems that focus solely on the former too often result in a hollowing out of the enterprise, as we have seen with any number of iconic companies that have “performed” their way to the sidelines.
But this begs a key question—how do you measure power? Specifically, what kind of metrics could supply a stable foundation for management accountability and executive compensation?
In my book Escape Velocity, when discussing managing for shareholder value, we introduced a framework called the Hierarchy of Powers. The idea is that investors, who are buying a share of your enterprise’s future performance, value your company based on how much power they think it has relative to other investments they could be making. In this context, we claimed there were five classes of power that got evaluated in the following order of priority:
Category Power. Is your core business in a category that is growing, stable, or declining? This, we claimed, is the single biggest predictor of future performance.
Company Power. Within that category, where is your company in the pecking order of companies? If you are number one, that is a huge advantage. If you are number two, it also provides tailwinds. After that, there are no more tailwinds to be had.
Market Power. For companies that focus on one or more vertical markets, is your company the default choice for major prospects and customers in that segment? Wherever this is the case, it gives a material boost to your sales momentum and thus your company’s valuation.
Offer Power. Do you get preference and/or premium pricing due to the differentiation of your offer? Do you win the lion’s share of any competitive bake-offs?
Execution Power. Do you have a history of meeting or beating guidance on a consistent basis?
The model has stood up well over the years, but there is still the question of how to ensure accountability for investing in power when so much of our attention (and compensation) is focused on creating the next quarter’s performance. To that end, my colleague Philip Lay and I have been sorting through objective measures that signal material gains in power, ones that executive teams could readily track, and compensation programs could use to calibrate bonuses.
Here’s what we propose should be the top two metrics for each class of power:
Category Power. The focus here is on portfolio valuation—how many categories does the enterprise participate in, and how is each category faring. Meaningful changes in category power typically come through M&A, often supplementing organic innovation that is looking to scale quickly. Top two metrics for each category assessed:
Category Maturity Life Cycle status. The key stages are secular growth, cyclical growth, stagnant, and declining.
Technology Adoption Life Cycle status. This model focuses specifically on the period of secular growth, breaking it up into the following stages: Early Market, Chasm, Beachhead, Bowling Alley, Tornado, and Main Street. The two big valuation changers are winning a beachhead market segment in the Bowling Alley and participating with meaningful share in the Tornado.
Company Power. In high-growth categories, the focus is on bookings growth and competitive win rates. In mature categories, it is on the stability of the installed base as well as bargaining power both with suppliers and with customers. The top two metrics are:
Market share within each category. By far the most important metric, as market ecosystems organize around and give preference to the category leader.
Balanced mix of power and performance categories. For global enterprises, in particular, portfolio balance creates optionality to deal with both bull and bear markets.
Market Power. In emerging categories, dominating a target market segment, as opposed to merely participating in it, is critical to crossing the chasm and creating a sustainable franchise. In mature categories, target market segment focus is key to creating above-market growth. The top two metrics are:
Segment share. The most important metric because ecosystems that serve market segments organize around a segment leader only when it has dominant segment share.
Growth rates within target market segments. This is particularly important in any economic downturn that impacts different market segments to highly varying extents.
Offer Power. This metric and the next are closely aligned with delivering performance in the current fiscal year. That said, they still signal successful investments in power. The top two power metrics are:
Magic quadrant status. This is the most widely circulated third-party measure of offer power.
Win/loss record in head-to-head competitions. This is the most credible measure of offer power.
Execution Power. This really is the land of performance, but there is still power in reputation. Top two metrics are:
History of “meeting or beating” commits, be they forecast or, release dates. This is what gives confidence to customers and partners to give your team the nod.
Customer success metrics. These include Net Expansion Rate, Net Retention Rate, and Promoter Score, all of which validate that you are keeping your sales promises.
Guidelines for Using the Metrics
Metrics are a device to ensure visibility and accountability, and nowhere is this more important than when dealing with something as abstract as power. The key is to associate the right metrics with the right people, the ones who can have the most impact on the level of power in question. This works out as follows:
Top Executives:Category Power, Company Power. The two key levers here are using M&A to strategic advantage and using the annual budgeting process to allocate resources asymmetrically to achieve strategic objectives.
Middle Management:Market Power, Offer Power. The two key levers here are using market segmentation to strategic advantage and allocating the resources under your control asymmetrically to achieve dominant shares in target market segments.
Front Line:Execution Power. The key lever here is to align and focus the resources under your control or influence them in order to deliver the performance you have committed to.
For purposes of compensation, promotion, and overall alignment, these metrics align well with OKR objectives and can be used wherever OKRs are focused on increasing power. Again, the goal is not to replace performance metrics but rather to complement them.
That’s what Philip and I think. What do you think?
In Silicon Valley, we talk a lot about leadership but perhaps not enough about management. That’s because we are famous for working the fuzzy front end of things, where management is premature and leadership is paramount. But to have real impact on the world, you must eventually lean on strong management to operate at scale. So, what exactly does that entail?
First and foremost, management is about delivering the performance committed to in the plan. Everyone gets this, and while there are major differences in styles of management, all are measured ultimately by performance metrics, and no one is confused. We may not like the numbers we are supposed to make, but we know what they are, we have some idea of what it will take to make them, and we will get report-outs along the way to tell us how we are doing.
Such is not the case, however, with a second dimension of management accountability—the need to continually invest in ways that will power future performance. Performance consumes power as a means to create returns. If we focus 100% of our resources on performance, we will eventually exhaust all our existing sources of power and will be unable to compete effectively going forward.
Seems obvious enough, but here is the problem. We do not define power anywhere nearly as clearly as we define performance. We do not have reports that tell us how we are doing on the power side of the equation. We are often not really clear about what power we should be going after, what investments could be specifically targeted to deliver power, or what metrics would verify that we have succeeded. Worse still, our performance compensation systems can actually incent us to ignore all this ambiguity around “power management” and focus solely on meeting our performance commitments, particularly when resources are tight. Worst of all, as power dwindles, it becomes harder and harder to make the number, which puts more pressure on the resources we have, which further disincentivizes investing in future power. The result is a downward spiral from which it is painfully hard to escape.
So, what can we do to prevent it?
To begin with, we will need a map—specifically a power map, an understanding of the geography of our current power base. We can develop one through root cause analysis. That is, if we are in the Performance Zone, we can ask, where are our products successful, where are they not, and why? Where are our sales efforts successful, where are they not, and why? Similarly, if we are in the Productivity Zone, we can ask, where are our systems working as promised, where are they not, and why? Which of our programs have delivered the change in state promised, which have not, and why? (Note: if we are in the Incubation Zone, we are already an investment in power, so this exercise would not apply.)
Root cause analysis, by its very nature, shifts the focus from the domain of performance (effects) to that of power (causes). The deeper this analysis can penetrate, the more insightful our map of power becomes. This is a good opportunity to engage the entire team, not only to improve the quality of the analysis, but also to help everyone develop their own management perspective.
Once a power map is in view, then the question becomes, if we could intervene in only one place, where could we have the most impact, and what would it take to bring it about? We are looking for a specific initiative that could change the game within whatever time limits are appropriate to the situation. Here are some examples:
In response to a weakening industry status, Sybase leveraged the financial crisis in 2008 to boost its power on Wall Street, a long-dormant part of its power map, with a campaign that focused on portfolio risk analysis, capitalizing on the unique attributes of its columnar database for online analytics. The success of that campaign bought valuable time to develop a mobile app platform for hosting enterprise applications on the iPhone, something that led to SAP acquiring the company at a premium in 2010.
In response to the successful performance of the iPod and iTunes (almost half of Apple’s revenue in 2007), subsequently being exposed to the existential threat of smartphones eventually assimilating music players, Apple invested deeply in the iPhone, leveraging its existing wireless downloading infrastructure to liberate programs and content from carrier control. Today, the iPod is effectively embedded in the iPhone, and it is that device that supplies 50 percent of Apple’s revenue.
In response to drastically deteriorating industry power at IBM in the early 1990s, Lou Gerstner completely reframed the enterprise’s power map, rejecting the view that future power would come from disaggregation, asserting instead that it would come from global integration. Leveraging an emerging global trend in e-commerce, he and his team transformed the company into a services-led powerhouse that helped lead the IT industry for another decade.
These examples, of course, represent big power maps. Most of us play on a considerably smaller stage. But the principles are the same:
Leave conventional wisdom behind
Take a fresh view of the power dynamics influencing your organization
Launch a single focused initiative that tees things up for future success
All that remains is to create accountability for power outcomes. Accountability begins with identifying a single accountable person. People often shy away from this because they associate it with someone to blame. That is neither the point nor the role. Rather, this person is the quarterback of the initiative. To be really clear, they are not the team owner (that would be the executive sponsor) nor are they the coach (that would be the line manager in charge of delivering both performance and power), but rather they are the person on the field taking input from teammates to make the best calls in the moment. Without this single point of coordination, initiatives are unable to take decisive action under conditions of uncertainty—in other words, they underperform in game-time situations.
The next thing we need is a good way to keep score. This can be tricky because indicators for power are not as easy to see as those for performance. Nonetheless, we cannot manage what we cannot measure, so we need to get creative here. One place we can look for ideas is from our customer success operations. There the focus is on onboarding, adoption, usage, and upsell—all of which are signals of whether power is waxing or waning. Whatever the initiative we are managing, we need to create proxies to detect these kinds of signal and use them to track our progress.
Finally, we need to tie meeting power metrics with compensation, not only for the single accountable person but also for the organization making the resource sacrifices to enable the investment required. This will typically be in the form of bonuses for hitting key metrics within a given time limit. Not only do such bonuses motivate, they also make clear to the rest of the enterprise that this initiative is important, and that the people leading it are committed to its success.
Many would-be innovators obsess over ideas, wait for inspiration to strike, and believe that with the right idea, success can miraculously come overnight.
However, as we’ve written before, that’s just not going to happen. In fact, usually the only thing separating the winning innovators from the rest is execution. It makes all the difference in the world, and yet, it’s still a vastly underrated capability.
As part of our coaching program, we’ve asked hundreds of corporate innovators and innovation leaders to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. And, by far, the most common answer is that they’re great at coming up with ideas and thinking about the big picture but lack the patience and discipline to see things through to results.
As such, it’s safe to say that as a community, we innovators need to take a hard look in the mirror and admit that this an area where most of us have a lot of room for improvement.
So, in today’s article, we’ll explore the topic of executing innovation in more detail to try to understand what the problems associated with it are, and what successful execution of an innovation really takes. This is designed to be a guide to help leaders get it right, but I think there’s a lot that every innovator regardless of job title can learn from.
What does executing innovation mean?
Before we dive deeper, it’s probably a good idea to clarify what we mean with the term “executing innovation”, and how it relates to “implementing innovation”.
These are often used interchangeably, but I think it’s useful to distinguish them from one another. The way we like to put this is as follows:
Implementing innovation is the process of taking an idea and then turning that into reality.
Executing innovation, on the other hand, is the entire process of creating value with innovation.
In other words, implementation is what you do for an individual idea to make that happen. Execution covers the implementation, but also the process of turning that (along with many other ideas and innovations) into something that actually creates value and can be scaled up.
Implementation isn’t always easy, but it’s still typically a linear project that you can usually plan out in advance. Execution, on the other hand, is a much more complex and multidisciplinary effort.
To succeed at delivering value, you need to get a lot of things right. And with innovation, there are many assumptions in that plan. Some of those assumptions will always prove to be false, and you’ll need to deviate from the plan.
That combination of multidisciplinary collaboration and the need to deviate from original plans often leads to a myriad of practical challenges in many large organizations.
However, before we dive deeper into those challenges, let’s first take a step back to realize why execution is so critical.
Why execution is critical for innovation success
There’s a reason for innovation being defined as the act of introducing something new.
Everyone has ideas. Many can even implement some form of them, typically a prototype, but few successfully realize the full potential of the idea by truly executing on it successfully.
To clarify, ideas are an important starting point, but with every great idea, there are hundreds or even thousands of people across the world who’ve had the same exact idea.
Most never start working on it. Many give up in the process. Some make it to market, and a few might even make that into a feasible business. There are usually only a couple of winners. Those are the ones that succeeded in executing that idea.
Everyone has ideas, but few successfully realize the full potential of their ideas. The ones that do are the ones that know how to execute well.
This is of course a bit of an oversimplification but should help explain the fundamental importance of proper execution.
And that is not just true for individual ideas and innovations, but it’s also the case for corporate strategies at large. Look at any given industry, and it’s quite likely that you’ll see many companies with a nearly identical strategy. Again, the difference comes down to how well the company succeeded in executing that strategy.
In other words, your idea or strategy sets the ceiling for your impact if successful, but execution determines how close to that ceiling you’ll get. Even the best idea or strategy is worth nothing unless it’s executed well.
On the other hand, even with a mediocre strategy or idea, you can achieve remarkable success if you just execute it well enough. There are dozens of well-known companies like McDonald’s and FedEx that are obvious examples of this. There’s nothing particularly remarkable or distinctive about their ideas or strategies. They weren’t the first in their respective fields, they just executed on their ideas brilliantly.
What’s more, if you’re a strong executor, you’ll soon find out the limits of the original strategy or idea, at which point you can adapt and change course accordingly. But, it doesn’t work the other way around.
Thus, no matter the situation, execution will always be more important than your idea or strategy.
Misconceptions about executing innovation
As you might have realized by now, execution is of course a massive, nuanced, context-specific and very complex endeavor. In practice, it’s an endless jungle of interlinked choices and actions affecting one another that you need to navigate with limited information to get to the other side.
Thus, the space of possible challenges and problems you might encounter is pretty extensive. So, instead of looking at the individual problems themselves, it’s more helpful for us to try to understand the common misconceptions that ultimately lead to teams underappreciating execution and thus subsequently failing at it.
A big factor behind most of these is the fundamental uncertainty that innovation is always associated with. Because you can’t know everything in advance, it’s not going to be a nice and linear process of doing simple steps one after another. Instead, it’s a messy and iterative process of creative problem-solving.
Anyway, with that, here are the top four that I most commonly see innovation leaders and their teams have.
1. The leader’s job is just to get the big picture right
This is probably the most common problem I’ve come across, and it’s especially common among inexperienced executives, or ones that otherwise lack execution experience, such as some management consultants and academics.
There are many shapes this one might take, and we’ll return to it later, but what it ultimately comes down to is the glorification of strategy work and/or surface-level creativity.
In business school, and in consulting, we’re taught to think about the big picture as the job of top management. We’re led to believe that a leader or innovator takes in a market analysis, compares a few scenarios, chooses a positioning, and then paints an inspiring vision to show direction for the company. Then the pieces will simply fall in place and success happens.
While the above mentioned are of course still useful activities, if you’ve ever actually turned an innovative idea into a successful business, you know that in practice, there’s a lot more to it than that, and experienced executives are of course well aware of that
Strategic choices can be made across the organization, but the responsibility for execution always lies at the top.
As Professor Martin has well put it, CEOs should stop thinking that execution is somebody else’s job, and the same applies for every innovation leader. Strategic choices can be, and frequently are, made where the action is. Yet, the responsibility for execution always lies at the top. After all, there’s a reason for the CEO being the Chief Executive Officer.
2. I don’t need to understand the details
The second is closely related to our first one. It’s easy to think that as a leader or visionary innovator, you’re the person responsible for the vision, ideas, and big picture decisions, and then the experts will then figure things out in practice. After all, that’s why you hired them, right?
Well, that might work if you’re operating in a static industry where all the variables are known and static, but with innovation that really isn’t the case.
You need to get the big picture right, but it isn’t enough to succeed. You need to also have the right product, business model, technology, customer experience, customer acquisition channels and tactics, operating models, etc. All of these have a wide variety of choices that depend on one another and changes in any of the areas will force you to change many of the other pieces in the puzzle too.
With innovation, the devil is in the details!
As an innovation leader, connecting the dots is ultimately your job, and you can’t do that without understanding the details.
That’s why you’ll find an obsession for the details in pretty much every successful innovator, both past and present. They have the same in-depth understanding and attention to detail as the best artists, athletes and top representatives of other fields do too.
So, while you absolutely need to engage with and empower the experts, they are experts in their own field and likely don’t know how to consider all the other moving pieces in the puzzle. As an innovation leader, connecting the dots is ultimately your job, and you can’t do that without understanding the details.
It’s the one responsibility you simply can’t delegate away.
3. Execution requires a clear and unambiguous plan
Even if you are an experienced executive and value the importance of execution highly, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t fail when executing innovation. Here the most common problems occur if the leader’s experience comes primarily from operations within the known and well understood confines of “business as usual”.
When the environment is well understood, and the scale large from the get-go, it’s of course valuable to try to plan carefully, analyze business cases and craft detailed project plans prior to execution.
Also, since everyone knows that innovation is a risky endeavor, it of course makes sense to try to reduce those risks before your start a big innovation project to try to avoid major mistakes and generally just ensure that you’ve done a good job in planning and preparation before committing to the project.
This often leads to large companies commissioning all kinds of market studies and strategy projects. Some of those can certainly be useful in increasing your understanding of the landscape, but most invest way too much time, energy, and money into these. Also, every now and then these projects seem to be ordered only to have a scapegoat in case something goes wrong.
Regardless, there’s a fundamental problem: with innovation, you can’t have all the answers in advance. You’ll always need to make a number of assumptions upon which your plan relies on, some of which will inevitably prove to be wrong.
With innovation, you won’t have all the answers in advance.
Thus, if you require innovators to propose clear, detailed and unambiguous plans for you, or conversely create such plans and then hold innovators accountable for successfully executing them, it just won’t work out. And, whenever it then comes to surface that everything hasn’t gone according to the plan, innovation projects are frequently shut down, even if they’d still hold a lot of potential.
You obviously still need to align with the strategy, plan ahead, and have a disciplined approach to execution, but it’s not so much about creating a detailed roadmap, as it is about choosing direction and figuring out which questions or problems you’ll need to address first.
In other words, you need to embrace the uncertainty and the fact that you can’t have a perfectly unambiguous and detailed plan before starting to execute it. Instead, figure out what the assumptions and uncertainties in your plan are and commit to a disciplined learning effort to figure out the right path forward.
4. Innovation is fun
There’s a stereotype around people working in innovation being these visionaries that are bursting with great ideas and seem to come up with great new concepts all the time. And as mentioned in the intro to this article, that is often true.
That skillset is of course very useful for innovation, but there’s also a downside. There are naturally exceptions, but many of us working on innovation can find execution too boring and repetitive, and/or lack the perseverance, discipline, and patience needed to succeed at it.
Innovators often spend too much on the creative and “fun parts” of innovation, as opposed to what’s really needed to turn an idea into a successful innovation
As a group, we generally love creative work, and are always looking for fresh, new stimuli to feed that inspiration. That often leads us to spend too much time and effort on the “fun parts” of innovation, and too little on the not so fun, more repetitive, and laborious parts of the process that execution essentially is comprised of. The reality is that for every minute you spend coming up with ideas, you’ll probably need to spend a day, a week, or even more implementing those ideas.
So, if your innovation team is primarily filled with, or led by, such “idea people”, which is quite common, then there’s a big risk of a systematic lack of respect for and capabilities in execution. This will lead to a very suboptimal culture for innovation, and ultimately disappointing business outcomes.
Getting Execution Right
As already mentioned, there are a lot of similarities between successful execution in “business as usual”, and in innovation. However, there are also clear differences between the two.
So, to help you navigate the differences, and to succeed at executing on whatever innovation you’re working on, here are the five most important factors to keep in mind whenever you’re trying to execute on an innovation and build something truly novel.
1. Take the path most likely to succeed, but keep your options open
As mentioned, with innovation planning and strategy work need to be done a bit differently than you would with an existing business.
Good decisions here make it much easier for your team to figure out how to move forward and can save a lot of time money going down the wrong path. Regardless, you’ll soon end up at another crossroads and need to make another decision. Heck, sometimes you might even come across a dead-end and need to backtrack to an earlier crossroads. Sometimes Plan C or D is the way to go.
The point is that no matter which path you choose, you won’t see what’s ahead all the way to the end.
Thus, good strategy work requires you to embrace uncertainty, test assumptions critically, and think deeply about the real-life feasibility of each path ahead.
And it’s certainly not a one-time project you do at the beginning, but more of a continuous learning process as you unravel the puzzle piece by piece.
If you keep an open mind and build your teams and products to embrace that uncertainty, you can quickly recover and learn from setbacks, as well as embrace new opportunities you couldn’t even think of before you set out. This is what’s known as cognitive and organizational flexibility.
2. Solve the biggest problems first
As humans, most of us have a bit of a tendency to go for the comfortable low-hanging fruits and procrastinate on the hard but important problems, as well as uncomfortable truths.
I’ve certainly been guilty of this on many occasions, even while writing of this article. Getting a number of small things done makes us feel like we’re making good progress, but unfortunately that’s often a bit of a false sensation as we might not really be any better off than when we began.
With the inherit uncertainty in innovation, that is naturally a bit of a problem. When you’re executing any given innovation, there’s countless things that need to be done so it’s easy to just start checking off boxes like building more features, creating marketing materials, getting compliance approvals, or whatever you may have on your agenda.
But, it’s the big things that make or break your innovation early on. For example: will a customer benefit from my product, how much are they willing to pay, can I even build the product I’ve envisioned, etc.
While you need to care about the details, it’s the big things that make or break your innovation early on. So, start from the big problems, even if it hurts!
The key is finding a way to figure out what these big problems or critical assumptions are, and then find ways to quickly test and address them. This allows you to quickly figure out if you’re on to something, which of course saves a lot of time and money for you in the inevitable case that you weren’t quite there from the get-go.
Also, if you get the big things right, you can already deliver most of the value, and that means you can more quickly start capturing some of that value to get a return for your investments.
Plus, if you tackle these early on when you still have a small team, changing course will be much quicker and easier, and you’ll have spent much less money solving the same important problems than you would with a larger team later on.
In most businesses, these critical assumptions revolve around how much value you can deliver to customers, and how valuable they see that to be. However, in certain circumstances, those can be related to something entirely different, such as the feasibility of implementation when developing a new breakthrough drug.
Solving for the hardest problems first does generally require a bit more of a leadership commitment as you won’t always be able to show quick wins as early on, but at least it can save you from an embarrassing and costly failure like CNN+.
3. Build the right team
It might be a bit of an obvious statement, but it’s still probably worth pointing out: innovation is a bit of a team sport. So, to do well at it, you need the right team.
However, what might not be as obvious is that ‘the right team’ means in practice. In our experience, there are two key parts to this:
Multidisciplinary team with talented individuals in each area
Leadership and individuals that share the right mindset for innovation
The prior is pretty self-explanatory. Innovation is almost always a cross-disciplinary effort. The specifics depend on what kind of an innovation you’re working on, but usually you need expertise in at least design, engineering, commercial and operational matters.
The most impactful innovations are actually comprised of a stack of innovations in many of these areas, each designed to work together to address a specific problem or ‘job’ for the customer. Thus, if you have talent at every position, the outcome will be much more than the sum of its parts.
The latter, however, is the part that many teams fail to appreciate. Innovation is, by definition, doing something that others haven’t succeeded at before, so the journey won’t be easy.
Your team will face a lot of uncertainty and struggles, and will still need to perform at their best, often under a lot of pressure. That requires a very specific type of culture within the team, but also the right mindset for each individual. You want people that can cope with uncertainty and are able to remain optimistic and overcome difficult situations while still being realistic and ruthlessly critical of their own capabilities. They need to have an innate passion to strive for excellence, and a lot of discipline, grit, and perseverance.
And, of course, because it’s a team sport, people need to be able to work well together and perform as a team. This, however, isn’t usually much of an issue as long as people can leave their egos at the door. The struggles you will face together as a team will build bonds and gel you into a team.
4. Make sure every decision and detail are aligned
As we already discussed, you don’t need (and usually can’t have) a clear and unambiguous plan for an innovation project where every role and task would be charted out in advance. However, as we also discussed, the devil is often in the details and seemingly small things can derail the project from its goals?
So, what gives?
Well, the point is that with innovation, you need to keep an eye on everything. As an innovation leader, you need to maintain excellent awareness of both the big picture and the details throughout the project. But, because the environment changes dynamically and you need to move fast, you can’t really do that work upfront.
Nor can you just look at some KPIs and financial reports to figure out if things are moving in the right direction because the important things won’t show up in these for quite a while, and at that point, it’s often too already too late to react.
As a leader, your primary job is to keep up with what’s going on both with the ever-changing big picture, and the details on the ground so that you can spot problems early and intervene before it’s too late, no matter where the issues might arise from. If you don’t understand how everything works in practice and know what problems everyone is working on and why, it will be pretty much impossible to do that.
Some might see the latter as micro-management, but it doesn’t mean you have to dictate what everyone does. It just means that as a leader, you need to be the person that connects the dots and then empowers the team to succeed. There’s a clear difference.
Which brings us nicely to our last point.
5. Take full ownership for the execution
As we’ve covered, execution is the make-or-break part in the lifecycle for every innovation.
It’s always a bit of an exploratory process where you need to remain flexible, while still moving forward quickly and executing at a high level.
And, at the same time, seemingly inconsequential low-level choices related to implementation turn out to become existential issues for any innovation project.
Again, you don’t need to decide everything on behalf of your team. In fact, often it’s best to let the experts solve problems and do their job, as long as you can give them the right guidance and constraints to work with. Instead, you need to think of every potential problem as your fault and then figure out a way to get past them together with your team.
The bottom line is that being an innovation leader isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and work to understand and stay on top of things, but as already mentioned, that’s the one thing you can’t really skip, automate, or delegate. Essentially everything else you can.
The only way to succeed at that is to take full ownership and commit to the process.
We’ve covered a lot of ground, so let’s do a bit of a recap.
Innovation isn’t a linear project that you can plan out in advance and monitor progress with a Gantt chart. There will always be plenty of surprises. Many unpleasant, but usually some positive ones too. You’ll need to be flexible enough to react to these and alter course accordingly.
It’s an inherently messy and iterative process of figuring out a way to build new things and align all the pieces so that everything works out.
Fundamentally, an innovation leader’s job is to show direction and try to keep track of everything that’s happening, align those puzzle pieces together with the big picture while always being on the lookout for potential problems and then eliminate those before they derail the project, as there will be many.
It’s not an easy or comfortable job, but if you can get it right, it’s an incredibly rewarding one.
Ironically, despite all the talk about practical issues and attention to detail being vital, this has been a bit of a high-level overview on the topic. So, if you’re interested in learning more about the details related to what we’ve discussed today, I have a couple of practical recommendations for you:
First, the best way to learn to innovate is by doing. So, get your hands dirty, keep these tips in mind, do your best, and I’ll guarantee you’ll learn a lot.
But, if you currently don’t quite have the time to commit to an innovation project, a good alternative way to learn more about innovation management is with our Innovation System online coaching program. We’ve now made the program completely free of charge for the first 1000 readers to sign up for it.
The effects of cultural differences for innovation are an interesting and extremely multifaceted topic.
For most of us, it probably goes without saying that cross-cultural and multicultural capabilities are crucial in today’s globalized and hyperconnected world, and innovation is no exception. These capabilities are especially important if you’re working on it in a large international organization, as many of our customers are.
Such an organization must obviously think about how to adapt new innovative products and services to the cultures and unique characteristics of different markets and regions. But, in addition to that, they also need to manage the cultural differences within their organization while trying to innovate. Given that we have customers all over the world, it’s a theme we often get asked about.
And, of course, there’s also the age-old debate about the cultures of certain regions or countries being better suited to innovation to begin with.
So, in this today’s article, we’ll dive deeper on this nuanced topic and each of those three themes around cultural differences in innovation. We’ll also end by providing you with practical advice on how to look at and take these into account in your innovation work.
How can cultural differences be observed?
However, before we dive deeper, let’s first take a step back and consider the question of how to observe cultural differences in the first place.
I’m sure we all agree that there are significant cultural and behavioral differences between people coming from different backgrounds, be it based on geographical, ethnic, religious, or just the past corporate cultures people have been a part of.
As these differences are often hard to pin down, people usually have an innate urge to try to group people into specific buckets to make sense of those differences. There are significant challenges in doing that as it can lead to putting people into predefined boxes and reinforcing stereotypes, and then treating people based on those stereotypes instead of the individuals they really are. That is why these kinds of approaches shouldn’t be considered universal truths or used as recipes for making decisions even from a purely pragmatic point-of-view, let alone from an ethical one.
Still, with that major caveat, there are also benefits in using such frameworks since they can help us make sense of the world in a more structured way. They can help everyone get a better understanding of the big picture and can serve as a starting point for creating a shared understanding, as well as debating the practical implications of cultural differences.
There are many such methods available, but the general approach is always the same: to break a culture down into several behavioral and/or value-based dimensions ranging from one extreme to another, and then rating each culture on each of these dimensions to form an overview of their respective cultures.
The most popular and widely researched of these are probably the GLOBE project, and the Hofstede cultural dimensions model, but there are also other popular ones like the Culture Map. Each of these frameworks uses the above described approach, and most of the research on them is primarily focused on the differences between individual nations. Having said that, the same approaches have also been applied to other levels, such as gender, organizational, etc. often just with slightly different dimensions.
Next, we’ll briefly explain the Hofstede cultural dimensions model because it’s one of the earliest, and by far the most popular model in the field. If you’re already familiar with the model, you can skip the next paragraph and jump right into the takeaways.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Geert Hofstede worked at IBM back in the 60’s when it was one of the first true global, multinational corporations. As part of his work on improving cross-cultural communication, he ran the same survey on values for more than 100,000 employees from different countries and analyzed the differences, which then led to the creation of his model some years later.
Initially the model consisted of four dimensions, but upon additional research, has since been expanded to six. I’ll briefly explain each of these next, and then share a few examples to illustrate how that works.
Power Distance Index (PDI) determines how equally power is distributed and how hierarchical a society is. High scores indicate a structured and hierarchical society, whereas low values indicate a more distributed power structure and willingness to question authority.
Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV) looks at how heavily individuals are integrated into groups. This is mostly self-explanatory, but it’s worthy pointing out that collectivist cultures are highly loyal to the close-knit groups they belong to.
Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) determines how much ambiguity and uncertainty a society is comfortable with. High scores indicate that a society values clear, often strict, rules and guidelines and believes in there being a “singular truth”. Low scores mean that a society is more willing to explore new ideas and divergent thoughts and is less structured overall.
Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS) is of a dimension that’s subject to some controversy, but here refers to values associated with traditional gender roles. A masculine society values achievement, assertiveness, and material rewards for success, whereas a more feminine one values cooperation, modesty, care, and quality of life.
Long-term orientation vs. Short-term orientation (LTO) is pretty self-evident. Long-term oriented societies tend to think more about the future and view adaptation and pragmatic problem-solving as important, whereas more short-term oriented one tends to value traditions and the current state and be less willing to change.
Indulgence vs. Restraint (IND) in turn refers to how much a society indulges and encourages freedom for individuals to “just have fun and enjoy life”. More restrained societies tend to have stricter social norms regarding such behavior as they see these indulgences as counter-beneficial for bigger, longer-term ambitions.
There’s been some research on how these tendencies affect innovation, and as you can probably guess, some tend to be more favorable for high innovation performance than others. Which brings us to the big question: are some cultures intrinsically better at innovation than others?
Are some cultures better than others at innovation?
Well, in short, the answer is yes. At least to some extent. As mentioned, there’s research that shows a relatively strong correlation between certain cultural characteristics and innovation performance.
However, here it’s worth pointing out that almost all of the research done on the topic would seem to focus on country level data as that is widely and freely available thanks to studies like the Global Innovation Index (GII).
While certainly useful, we should take these findings with a grain of salt due to a number of factors, such as the studies again being high-level generalizations based on correlations, and the indices like GII being predominantly focused on inputs for innovation such as education and R&D spending. Even the output focused parts tend to be a bit biased towards activity metrics, such as number research papers and patents, instead of the real value and economic impact of innovation.
What’s more, I think it’s important to point out that most natural cultures evolve much slower than the GII rankings change, so it should be quite evident that there are also many other factors than culture that affect these scores.
But with that out of the way, let’s now look at the actual findings.
Characteristics of top innovation cultures
Based on the available studies, there would seem to be a pretty good consensus on the ideal innovation cultures having the following characteristics on the Hofstede model, in rough order of importance:
High levels of long-term orientation and pragmatism
High levels of individualism
High levels of indulgence
Low levels of uncertainty avoidance
Lower levels of masculinity
These findings are obviously mostly in line with what most of us think of as a pro-innovation culture, so there aren’t really that many surprises here.
If people can question authority, are comfortable with ambiguous and uncertain environments, and can think about the long-term instead of just the next quarterly results, innovation is a lot more likely to happen.
While there’s more to innovation performance than culture, certain characteristics are likely to lead to a culture being better at innovation.
In most studies, the level of masculinity seemed to make the least amount of difference of any of the variables for innovation performance. Some studies found no correlation, but some did find a preference for a feminine, more collaborative culture instead of the more competitive and assertive, masculine one.
However, in my opinion, the most interesting findings are that high levels of individualism and indulgence are favorable for innovation, when intuitively we might think that a culture that is more collaborative and favors restraint and delayed gratification would be preferable.
This can be explained with the way that the Hofstede dimensions are constructed.
A more collaborative culture is one where certain in-groups, typically your own family, come first, and where loyalty and obedience are absolute values. So, collaboration according to the Hofstede model isn’t so much for the “greater good”, but more about the benefit of that specific “inner circle” ahead of your own interests. More individualist societies, on the other hand, tend to be more comfortable disagreeing, exploring, and “letting the best ideas win”, which is what likely led to these cultures over-performing.
A similar explanation also applies for the preference for indulgence. According to the authors of the study linked above, people in indulgent cultures have a greater drive for improving things and making life more enjoyable, and are generally more optimistic, which they viewed as the primary factors driving innovation here, perhaps alongside a general willingness to just try new things.
So, in that context, I do think the findings make sense, but I think it’s also a good example of some of the challenges associated with more nuanced sides of these cultural frameworks.
Takeaways from country level innovation performance
Looking at the GII study, and the mapping of the top countries from that to the Hofstede model, there are a couple of points worth noting out.
First, the top countries in the GII are pretty much what most people would probably expect. The top 15 consists primarily of the US, the Nordics, as well as some Western European and East Asian countries.
However, the interesting part is that when we map these out to the Hofstede model, it’s immediately obvious that even the top performing countries are essentially all over the spectrum. Once we look a bit closer, it’s also evident that no individual country has the perfect innovation culture, as defined above.
To elaborate further, I think there are a few key takeaways from all of this:
There’s more than just one way to be a great innovator
While there are a few distinct types of cultures that generally do better, every culture has itsown strengths and weaknesses when it comes to innovation
You can improve your odds of succeeding at innovation by quite a bit if you recognize the biases of your culture that are likely holding you back
Top performing organizations should thus take these biases and cultural differences into account, and purposefully shape an organizational culture that is distinct from the average of any individual country and instead designed to drive more innovation. Here, diversity can be a real asset, but that’s another massive topic on its own.
Every culture has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to innovation. You can improve your odds of succeeding at it by recognising the biases that are holding yours back.
Having said that, there’s quite a bit more to creating this kind of an innovation culture than just what the Hofstede model captures, and we’ve written about that in detail in this earlier article.
However, one aspect that I’d like to highlight here is that innovation is requires a strong combination of both exploration and execution, so your culture should have a good mix of capabilities in both extremes.
With that said, let’s now move on to the more practical implications of cultural differences for innovation work.
Multi and cross-cultural innovation capabilities
Let’s start from the first and most obvious challenge innovators in a globalized world face: how can their products and services, as well as sales and marketing efforts be relevant when doing international business, especially in different, highly culturally diverse regions?
In certain situations, and for certain products, it can be completely fine to just do minor localizations like translations, and primarily use the same channels, models, and messaging across the world. This will keep things much simpler and there are situations where these benefits can outweigh the costs for both your customers and your business. For example, this is the route we’ve so far decided to take with Viima.
Having said that, if you don’t adapt your offering and operations to different cultural and market preferences, you often can’t reach your full potential. In some situations, it might even take a completely different approach to reach the same goal in different cultures.
P&G is these days often cited as an example of a multinational company that has been able to successfully grow in emerging markets, but one of the lessons they learned the hard way was that just operating with the same products and models as they did back home wouldn’t work.
For example, according to ex-CEO Lafley, when P&G decided to focus on the baby-care market in Asia, the initial approach was to just cut away material from the diapers sold in Western markets. The problem was that to get to a cost-level that was acceptable, they had to cut out so much that the products no longer worked as intended. Once they went back to the drawing board and created an entirely new product with a completely different design focused primarily on costs instead of the latest technology, they succeeded in creating an attractive product and eventually became the market leader in China.
However, in most cases, either extreme isn’t the way to go. You need to look for a solution that allows you to build on your strengths, but still cater to the different cultural preferences of those whom you choose to serve – and usually that isn’t everyone.
Of course, for most of us who are innovators, that isn’t really that different from what we do anyway: we know that whatever great ideas we have, many will never survive first contact with the real world.
Cultural differences and local preferences of different markets are just another variable that we’ll need to take into account in our innovation work. Still, if you’re aiming for international business, it is a topic that you’d be wise to consider during your development process as it can save you a lot of trouble down the road.
Now, if you already have team members that are intimately familiar with these different cultures, it’s just common sense that the whole process is likely to be quite a bit smoother. And the evidence backs it up: this is one of the reasons for diversity being an asset for innovation.
But with that, let’s finally cover the practical considerations of what all of the above means for our organization before we wrap up.
Managing cultural differences within the organization
This is of course another massive topic, so we’ll keep things focused and will seek to provide you with the three key principles we’ve generally found to work well for getting great innovation outcomes in an international, multicultural organization in our work with such organizations.
While many of these are quite practical, depending on your role, you might not be able to put all of them into practice right away. Still, I’d recommend thinking about ways you can apply the same core ideas within the scope of your innovation work.
Communicate about cultural biases and expectations openly
To illustrate this, I’ll share a story from No Rules Rules, which is a great book that I’d warmly recommend if you’ve made it this far into the post.
Before Netflix expanded internationally, it had a somewhat stereotypical US style task-oriented culture. It was quite common for employees to have lunch while working on their computers. However, as they expanded to Brazil, it quickly became obvious that this was a bit of a problem as, in general, Brazilians really value the relationships built over shared meals. As a result, early employees didn’t exactly feel welcome.
After some time, this came up in discussions, and while it was a trivial thing to fix, it still made a huge impact on morale. And not only did that help them adapt to local habits, but the changes also enriched the culture of the organization globally.
So, the takeaway here is that it’s important to pay attention to cultural differences and discuss them openly. Usually, the issues are easy enough to fix, but when they aren’t discussed, you easily miss them, and that’s what leads to many challenges down the road. The reality is that most people won’t be familiar with everyone else’s culture by default and expecting that to be the case just isn’t realistic.
Have core values and some norms, be flexible on the rest
Each organization’s culture is a result of its background. A sum of its parts, if you will. Be it the nationality of the company, past strategic and hiring decisions, and even simple practices and ways of working that have stuck around for one reason or another.
A few of these factors are core for the identity and competitiveness of the organization, and it’s these core values that you should hold on to. However, most of these factors are simple habits that are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Making the difference between the two is key.
The core values and norms are something you simply need to succeed as an organization, and those you simply can’t compromise on. New employees, whatever their background or experience, do need to adhere to these few essentials. And for that to happen, you need to train them on these values and principles and tell why that is so important for your organization.
You should be adamant about upholding your core values, but be flexible and willing to give up or change the more inconsequential parts of your culture so that it can evolve and improve
On the other hand, the rest of inconsequential norms and habits you should be willing to give up or change when needed so that everyone can feel welcome and be the best version of themselves. Everybody doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of one another.
But there’s more to it than just that. The right changes can, in fact, make your culture better. This is essentially what “hire for culture add, not culture fit” means in practice.
Let’s again use the Netflix lunch example. Was it crucial for the company to have employees to eat at their desks? Of course not. It was just an inconsequential habit. However, it was vital to have the new Brazilian employees feel welcome, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it improved the company’s performance. Plus, introducing this conscious habit globally helped have a positive impact elsewhere too!
The same can be applied even within the scope of your innovation work. For example, if you’re working on a new medical device, quality and safety are much more important than absolute speed to market. On the other hand, for a consumer web app, it’s probably the other way around. The exact values mentioned here aren’t important, it’s that they should support your strategy and innovation capabilities.
Figure out what the true core values and norms are for your innovation efforts, and make sure to reinforce these – and then be flexible on the rest.
Push decision-making down whenever possible
We’re a strong advocate for decentralized innovation. I won’t recap the whole topic here, but in a nutshell, it’s people who are closest to the market and the real work that often come up with the best ideas. Also, a decentralized approach allows you to dramatically scale your innovation work, which is key for long-term results.
While we’d argue that this is usually the preferable approach, it’s even more important when you’re operating in a multicultural and international environment, as we pointed out earlier.
Not only is this likely to lead to better decisions, but it’s guaranteed to improve the accountability and motivation of the employees making those decisions, which will lead to better results.
This is a key characteristics of the Netflix culture, and CEO Hastings prides himself in doing as few decisions as possible. And, at large, it’s seemed to work really well for them.
However, a market where they are struggling is India. And, at least on the surface, it looks like the problem has been that they’ve tried to adapt the same success formula to India as most other markets: using local top talent to produce new hit TV shows. The problem is that apparently Indians value sports and movies much more than they do TV shows, which has led to competitors focused on those areas dominating the market and a big commercial disappointment for Netflix. From the outside, it’s hard to say if they didn’t really live up to their values here, or if the mistake happened regardless of that. Still, I’m sure there were people on the ground in India that knew of these cultural preferences beforehand.
In practical terms, there are naturally some opportunities and capabilities that make sense to work on centrally, but in an international organization there are also plenty that would be best tackled by empowering people further down the organization to make decisions that best drive the key interests of the organization.
For example, some of our customers have launched big international innovation campaigns or other initiatives and struggled. They might find it difficult to engage people in the field because the centralized effort just doesn’t feel relevant for many of these people, or they might not be able to implement enough good ideas with that same centralized approach.
While there are others that have succeeded in similar centralized efforts, our most successful and advanced customers have nearly without exception evolved the way they work to really embrace innovation at the scale of the organization at large.
…and make sure innovators have the support they need
However, for that decentralized approach to work, you need to guide and support the people innovating across the organization. This is of course not specific to just an environment where there are cultural differences, but for innovation in general.
You likely have plenty of smart and capable people working for you who’d be more than capable of driving innovation, but if they don’t have the right resources, tools, and mindset, they might struggle.
So, in practice, you should:
share strategic priorities, and make sure people continue to work towards those
provide tools and resources that help people with the innovation process
communicate and oversee the above-mentioned core cultural values and norms of the organization
help people with challenges in being heard, understood, or taken seriously by others
help facilitate discussions and share innovation best practices between different parts of the organization
Often, the most convenient way to accomplish the above goals is to make these efforts a priority of your centralized innovation team, instead of having that small team try to drive innovation themselves.
The right approach and specific methods, tools, and frameworks obviously depend on the situation, but the point is that with the right support, you’ll find that people will often surprise you with the innovations that they’re able to create. The key to success with this model is to proactively invest in improving capabilities and supporting innovators across the organization.
Anyway, with this kind of an approach, you can move from just trying to manage cultural differences, to embracing and using them to drive value for your organization.
The topic of cultural differences is such a complex and nuanced topic that we’ve barely scratched the surface on here, even though this has been a pretty long article.
But to summarize, if ignored, cultural differences can become a big challenge for innovators. Yet, if embraced and properly managed, it can turn out to be a real advantage for you.
The first step is to understand that these differences exist in the first place, and that teams and people from different backgrounds are likely to have certain strengths, but also certain weaknesses, when it comes to innovation.
Then, reflect on what the ideal culture for innovation looks like in your specific business, and discuss these differences openly with your team.
And finally, try to approach the whole process systematically, with the help of tools like our Innovation Culture Scorecard, one by one addressing challenges that are holding your team back from reaching its true innovation potential.
As mentioned, when embraced and properly managed, cultural differences can turn out to be a real competitive advantage for an innovator.
I recently read a couple of excellent articles by Nick Skillicorn, and Prof. Rita McGrath where both discuss the challenges and intricacies involved in structuring and governing innovation within a large organization.
This is a classic topic that every corporate innovator has without a doubt come across, and it’s also one where “the right approach” is often quite elusive.
Inspired by those articles, we’ll present the most common archetypes and then dig a little deeper on the topic and share our thoughts and experiences to help you figure out how innovation should be structured within your organization.
Why organizing innovation is challenging
Before we dive into the different models for governing and organizing innovation, it’s important to understand why this is such a challenging topic to begin with.
That’s of course quite a lengthy and nuanced topic, but in short, there is no such thing as a perfect organizational structure or governance model. The bottom line is that a large organization is simply such a complex entity that structuring everything perfectly so that there aren’t any kind of bottlenecks, misaligned incentives, or any duplication of work just isn’t very realistic. If you’ve ever worked in large organization, you’ve certainly come across some of these challenges.
Now, most of these challenges are likely to be worse with innovation than with “business as usual” as, by definition, innovation means introducing changes. And most organizations simply aren’t designed for constant change.
What’s more, businesses are naturally very different from one another. A structure that works for a single product software company probably isn’t ideal for a CPG manufacturer or a house of brands because not only are their industries different, so are the innovations they are going after. So, what works well for some organization probably won’t be ideal for you.
This means that benchmarking and then applying “best practices” likely won’t work too well. Unfortunately, there just isn’t a single correct way to organize innovation.
Exploring the organizational archetypes for innovation
Having said that, there are a handful of common approaches, which we like to call archetypes, that most organizations use as the foundation for their efforts to organize and govern innovation.
Both McGrath and Skillicorn have done an excellent job in presenting many of these approaches, so a lot of credit for the following descriptions goes to them and I’d warmly recommend you read their takes too. Regardless, we’ve summarized their main points and combined them with our own experiences to create the following archetypes.
We’ll next explain each of these briefly, along with a quick summary of the key strengths and weaknesses for each.
No in-house innovation
The first and simplest way to organize innovation is to not do it, or to completely outsource it. Perhaps the most common method here is to simply keep tabs on promising startups and then acquire them, or to have tight collaboration with universities and other research institutions.
While this obviously keeps things simple organization-wise and minimizes fixed costs, it also means that you no longer have control over your own destiny, and are instead reliant on third parties, which puts you in a very vulnerable position long term. Furthermore, in the last decade, we’ve seen a huge inflow of capital to fund startups, which means that valuations for promising startups have skyrocketed and acquiring them on the cheap is simply no longer a very feasible strategy.
Suffice to say, if you want to build an organization that thrives in the long run, I wouldn’t recommend this approach.
Low fixed costs
Lack of strategic control and ability to build the future of the organization
Lack of differentiation
Reliance on third parties for both execution and especially exploration
Acquisition of promising innovations has become expensive
Perhaps the most common way large organizations set up innovation is by creating a centralized department that serves the innovation needs of the entire organization including each business unit and support functions, such as IT or HR. This can be a subdivision within R&D, but these days it’s typically a separate cross-departmental unit serving the innovation needs of business units.
Either way, such a unit is quick and easy to set up, and the approach has some other obvious advantages too, such as innovation expertise being built and managed centrally, which speeds up learning, as well as management and reporting being easy to organize.
It’s these advantages that make centralization the obvious choice for many who are just starting out with innovation. This is also an especially common approach for large industrial companies that typically have a strong R&D tradition.
If all of the innovation has to go through a single team, that team will inevitably become a bottleneck for innovation, no matter how skilled or large it is.
However, in the long run, this approach is also one that is likely to significantly limit your innovation potential. The reason is simple: if all of the innovation has to go through a single team, that team will inevitably become a bottleneck for innovation. No matter how large or skilled the team, they’ll never have enough resources. What’s more, this will also disincentivize everyone else in the organization from innovating and that prevents you from creating a true culture of innovation.
Quick, easy, and cheap to set up
Dedicated resources for working on innovation
Easy to govern, manage, and report on the overall innovation portfolio
Centralization can speed up learning
Poor scalability as centralized team will inevitably become a bottleneck for innovation
Likely to be pulled into too many projects, which leads to poor execution
High risk of degenerating into a support function serving business unit requests instead of strategically building the future of the organization
Likely to disincentivize others in the organization from innovating
Conflicting interests between business units can make prioritization difficult
Typically lack authority to make important, hard decisions
Popularized by Clayton Christensen as a solution to the Innovators’s Dilemma, dedicated business units for innovation have become increasingly popular in large organizations that are looking for the next stage of their growth. Sometimes these units have proper P&L responsibility, and they might even report directly to the CEO or others in senior management, but at times they can also be innovation labs responsible primarily for testing and piloting new ideas before they are to be integrated into the core business.
Regardless of the particularities, these approaches have some specific strengths, but also clear weaknesses. The good thing is that because the unit is independent, it can usually avoid being held back by the restrictions of the business as usual and can build their talent and approaches from scratch.
If innovation is the job of a select few, it will be incredibly hard to build a pro-innovation culture.
The downside is that they also don’t necessarily play to the strengths that the organization has already built. Without strong and clear leadership, these kinds of innovation efforts are likely to have an equally poor success rate as your average startup – but without the asymmetric upside.
The reason is simple: if you already have hundreds of millions or billions in revenue, most new businesses just don’t move the needle enough – unless they can quickly grow to a massive size or be combined with the strengths and competitive advantages of the core business.
And just like with the centralized model, this model again limits innovation to one part of the organization. As before, that will likely prevent you from creating a true culture of innovation, and thus lead to the unit becoming a bottleneck down the road.
Freedom to operate independently from processes of existing business units, which is essential for trying new things and creating disruptive innovations
Ability to hire and organize specifically for innovation
If led well, ability to focus on the long-term instead of short-term performance
High profile innovation unit can also be used for marketing and employer branding purposes
Conflicts of interest and lack of cooperation between core business and innovation unit likely to lead to politics, tension, and other challenges in integrating innovations into core business
Independence and lack of communication between business units might hurt strategic alignment and prevent the innovation unit from benefiting from the existing strengths of the organization
Can easily degenerate into a cost center performing innovation theaterwithout a clear strategic focus, strong leadership, and evidence-based processes
Likely to disincentivize innovation in other parts of the organization and thus prevent the creation of an innovation culture
High initial investment with lots of uncertainty can make the business case for investing in innovation look bad
Many organizations have relatively independent business units or product and brand teams, and for them it can often make sense for innovation to be embedded within these units.
Traditional examples of such an approach are companies like P&G and other CPG companies with strong brands. These companies are working hard to keep up to date with evolving trends and consumer needs to innovate and create new products for the consumer. However, the same can also be true for many other kinds of businesses, such as software companies with multiple products.
Depending on the industry and organization, these units might have varying levels of control over their innovations once they are on the market. For example, in CPG companies manufacturing, logistics and many other functions would likely be managed by core business operations instead of this unit.
Better able to focus innovation on things that matter for each business, be they strategic projects or emerging customer needs
More control over innovation resources and ability to get talent that meets specific needs
Parallelization over different units can increase innovation throughput of the organization overall
Easier to align innovation with business needs and plans within the unit
The business case for investing in innovation is typically easy to make as you can start from low-hanging fruits that provide immediate value
Innovation likely to be biased towards more applied and incremental projects due to focus on immediate business needs
Some efforts may be duplicated between teams, especially if more long-term R&D work is being done
Can lead to a silo-effect, extra need to focus on facilitating knowledge transfer between units
Our fifth approach is usually referred to as the ambidextrous organization. We’ve also seen it be referred to as the Hybrid model, and it’s quite a natural evolution from the previous archetypes as it seeks to combine the best of both worlds.
In a nutshell, the idea is that innovation should happen across the organization with existing business units focused on exploiting their current position through incremental innovation, and a separate dedicated unit being responsible for exploring and building the future of the organization through more radical or disruptive innovation.
In the ambidextrous model, existing units use incremental innovation to exploit the current position and new units are set up to explore and build future.
In practice, a new P&L responsible division will be setup for new non-core businesses, and the more incremental innovation will then be organised either as Embedded or Centralized.
If an organization does successfully implement such an approach, it can lead to exceptional long-term performance, but that’s of course easier said than done. For most organizations, this is likely to require a significant transformation, and it can be challenging to get everyone onboard, build the right processes, as well as to align goals and incentives the right way across the organization.
Easier to build a balanced innovation portfolio with both strong short and long-term performance
Enables building an innovation-oriented culture across the organization
Enough resources for key projects across the organization
Makes it easier to communicate the innovation strategy with clear roles and responsibilities for each part of the organization
Can customize governance models to meet the needs of different types of innovation in different parts of the organization
Expensive and difficult to build, as well as to maintain
Requires clear leadership and a commitment to a transformation from the top
Can demotivate innovation-oriented employees that are in the core business
Usually requires extensive changes to processes and the re-skilling of managers and employees across the organization
While easier than with most other models on paper, prioritization and division of responsibilities can still be challenging in practice
Our final model is the decentralized approach. If you look at any of the best innovators in the world, be it Apple, Tesla, SpaceX, or Amazon, this is closest to the model they use. None of these organizations has a centralized or dedicated team responsible for all innovation in the organization.
Instead, the organization decentralizes the responsibility for innovation to happen in individual teams (which are typically cross-functional and relatively small) across the organization. Each team is focused on figuring out how they could help the organization better reach their strategic goals, and innovation is just one of the key tools in that process.
If a team (or an individual leader or employee) comes across a big idea that shows promise but would require significant additional investments, they’ll apply for additional resources from management via a quick and streamlined process. If approved, that typically leads to another team being set up to pursue that idea.
This approach is sometimes called the permissionless model due to the significant freedom each team possesses to make decisions affecting their own work. The obvious advantages are that they usually know the problems intimately and have the resources, incentive, and know-how to solve them, and have fewer dependencies to other parts of the organization. That leads to an extremely high pace of innovation and innovation throughput for the organization, which together create a tremendous competitive advantage.
Having said that, this too isn’t exactly an easy model to implement for most organizations. Typically, this would require a fundamentally different mindset, leadership philosophy, and a significantly higher talent density. For the average organization, that means a full-blown transformation where most fundamentals in the organization would need to change, which of course isn’t feasible for many.
Extremely high throughput and pace of innovation
Ability to adapt, re-organize and meet changing demands quickly
Strong focus on execution and value creation
Clear roles and responsibilities
Would require a fundamental transformation for most organizations
Requires strong communication and strategic clarity from management
Active management involvement required to remove barriers and to organize teams so that the portfolio remains balanced
Requires high talent density across the organization, which can be very challenging to achieve in practice
Continuously evolving and rapidly changing landscape might be too intensive for some employees
Some work often initially duplicated across teams, but can be managed by creating horizontal support teams
Choosing the right approach for your organization
As you can see, every approach has their benefits, but also their disadvantages.
In our experience, the Hybrid and especially Decentralized are the likeliest approaches to lead to sustained levels of high innovation performance in the 21stcentury but implementing either isn’t exactly a walk in the park for a large organization. If you have the luxury of meeting (or are close to meeting) the prerequisites, these are the models I’d personally go for.
However, for many, that just isn’t the reality. Even if you’re like most organizations and don’t quite have the talent, leadership, or other prerequisites needed for these approaches, I’d keep either the Hybrid or Decentralized approach as your eventual goal to build towards.
Move control and decision-making down in the organization to be able to move faster, make more informed decisions, respond to changes quicker, and to simply innovate more.
However, instead of a major overnight transformation, you should be prepared for a set of smaller, gradual steps that build your capabilities and culture towards that future while solving the current problems with your processes and structures.
While not ideal in theory, in practice the journey towards becoming a mature top innovator typically first leads towards centralization for most incumbent organizations. They need to build their innovation strategy, knowledge and capabilities before they can successfully decentralize and move control and decision-making down in the organization to be able to move faster, make more informed decisions, respond to changes quicker, and to simply innovate more.
With that background, if such an approach is used, it’s crucial that this centralized innovation function understands and embraces their temporary role so that they are willing to relinquish control and power over innovation to others. All too often we see these leaders clinging on to the team, budget and power they’ve built long after it would’ve been in the organizations’ best interest to re-organize.
Best practices for organizing innovation
As we’ve discussed, if you’re planning to make changes to the way you organize innovation, most decisions will depend on your context. Still, there are a few things that are good to keep in mind regardless of the approach you end up choosing. Here’s my top three:
The best innovators continuously evolve
The first, and perhaps the most important point to remember is that the best innovators continuously evolve and improve the way they work. They don’t just pick one organizational structure and go with that forever. Instead, they are constantly looking for ways to re-organize their efforts so that they work on whatever is likely to best help them reach their goals. This is of course one of the fundamental strengths of the Decentralized model but applies to other approaches too.
This is also in line with how the most successful organizations approach re-organizations in general. They don’t just wait until the old structure is burning, they act proactively to position themselves for the future they want to create.
Clear roles and decision-making structures
It’s pretty obvious, but if people don’t know who can make a decision on an idea that they may have, or even who’s responsibility it would fall under, odds are that not a lot of innovation will happen.
The reality is that there will always be some ambiguity and overlap, especially in fast moving environments, but clear roles and decision-making structures are regardless important for an organization that wants to innovate.
If projects or decisions seem to get stuck, or turf battles seem to consistently pop up in your organization, unclear roles and ambiguous decision-making are likely to be the main culprits.
Organize according to strategy and plan for the execution
Again, it might sound obvious, but especially with innovation, the differences can be dramatic. Organization is the link between your strategy and your execution, so make sure it isn’t detached from the realities of what it will take to reach your goals with innovation.
To use a bit of a simplified example, if your strategy is focused on creating new business from emerging disruptive technologies, then the Embedded model probably won’t cut it as your innovators will be kept busy by the priorities from the core business.
Plan for the execution, on the other hand means that each team should have the resources and the freedom needed to reach your goals. If, using our previous example, you allocate just a few engineers to the team and then hope that sales will magically turn those technologies into booming businesses, odds are very much against you.
In other words, try to allocate resources so that the team has everything they need to reach their goals. While this sounds super basic, we still see these mistakes frequently when innovation is a bit of an afterthought for management.
As is probably evident by now, no structure or approach to governing innovation is ever going to be perfect, at least for long. As your goals change or your business and industry keep evolving, you will need to change and evolve too.
Even though organizing innovation doesn’t seem to get the same kind of attention as innovation strategy or culture, it’s extremely important, nevertheless. Get it wrong, and it will be almost impossible for your organization to succeed at innovation. Get it right, and you’ll at the very least have a realistic shot at that.
Hopefully this article has provided you with more thoughts on the topic, and some views on what to do and not-to-do.
Workplace change has never been at a higher rate or faster pace than now. Everything from consumer preferences to product sourcing models is in flux. ‘Reinvention,’ ‘transformation,’ and ‘disruption’ are popular terms to describe how private and public organizations are evolving to accommodate changing operating environments, stakeholder expectations and regulatory requirements. Leaders and their teams must enable multiple, complex changes when most organizational practices are obsolete and the future is at best uncertain.
In today’s dynamic environment, many leaders default to strategies that have worked under very different conditions. Relying on past practices to solve present challenges is often naive and highly risky. Other leaders instinctively select courses of action that feel right or appear credible based on limited or easily available data. In these cases, the speed of response and hope for simple solutions trump rigorous assessment and disciplined evaluation.
Addressing Uncertainty with No Regret Decisions
A pragmatic way to move forward through unknown conditions is to identify ‘no regret’ decisions. A no regret decision provides a net benefit under any future scenario. For example, building awareness of sanitation and hygiene good practices at the beginning of the pandemic was a no regret decision because it benefited people even if the virus didn’t spread through surface contact.
The Benefits of No Regret Decisions
There are four benefits of making no regret decisions. The first is they align stakeholders to a course of action. There is strength in agreement that leads to positive team dynamics and a foundation of success to build upon.
The second is that no regret decisions move a team from a static state to one of motion. Success in change is not about being perfect; it’s about responding to circumstances based on available information, identifying options, and selecting the best way forward. Delaying action is rarely a good strategy during change because issues amplify with time—speed of execution matters; inactivity is harmful. Taking action transitions people from being observers to participants, preparing them to address future time-bound situations and make bigger decisions. Momentum is a source of strength that ignites future efforts.
Creating a fact-base is essential to understanding the interplay of environmental factors that lead to analysis, hypotheses, and action. The third benefit is it provides opportunities to test and learn, to challenge assumptions and modify strategies to deliver the highest value.
The fourth benefit is the building of confidence of individuals and teams. They foster a belief in capabilities, decision-making process, and a high probability of success. Also, taking concrete actions minimizes the “fight, flight, or freeze” effect triggered by uncertainty. It renews people’s belief in their abilities and avoids the emotional responses of self-doubt and fear that come with unknown or vague circumstances.
No Regret Decision Examples
What decisions provide net benefits regardless of future outcomes? Capability development is an enabler of performance. The current focus on resiliency training is an example of equipping people with mindsets, tools, and behaviors, irrespective of the emerging scenarios. Critical thinking, ideation and creativity are other skills that add value when addressing all forms of hyper-change.
Simplifying and standardizing processes is another no regret decision. The decision-making process is a good example of how a consistent framework leads to shared understanding, assessment, and alignment on actions. When people use the same process, they follow the same rules and speak the same language. The symmetry of the approach leads to clarity and agreement.
Soliciting customer feedback to inform strategy development and execution offers benefits regardless of the operating environment. It is easy to skip this step of intelligence gathering when faced with multiple, complex changes requiring quick responses. The risk of doing so is that solutions don’t address client needs, risking relationships and sales.
Leaders and their teams are navigating business environments never seen before. Internal and external realities require them to rethink their operating models and pivot their strategies, initiatives, and resources to achieve their performance goals. Making no regret decisions enables them to align stakeholders on actions that lead to positive outcomes. They also provide the opportunity to test assumptions and hypotheses and refine the understanding of marketplace dynamics. The forward motion and small gains generated by no regret decisions build the confidence of individuals and teams to face challenges head-on to mitigate risks and seize opportunities.
The only regret from this type of decision is not making them. What no regret decisions can you make to help you lead through hyper-change?
If your organization is struggling to sustain its innovation efforts, then I hope you will do the following things.
Find the purpose and passion that everyone can rally around.
Create the flexibility necessary to deal with the constant change that a focus on innovation requires for both customers and the organization.
Make innovation the social activity it truly must be for you to become successful.
If your organization has lost the courage to move innovation to its center and has gotten stuck in a project – focused, reactive innovation approach, then now is your chance to regain the higher ground and to refocus, not on having an innovation success but on building an innovation capability. Are you up to the challenge?
There is a great article “ Passion versus Obsession ” by John Hagel that explores the differences between passion and obsession. This is an important distinction to understand in order to make sure you are hiring people to power your innovation efforts who are passionate and not obsessive. Here are a few key quotes from the article:
“The first significant difference between passion and obsession is the role free will plays in each disposition: passionate people fight their way willingly to the edge to find places where they can pursue their passions more freely, while obsessive people (at best) passively drift there or (at worst) are exiled there.”
“It’s not an accident that we speak of an “object of obsession,” but the “subject of passion.” That’s because obsession tends towards highly specific focal points or goals, whereas passion is oriented toward networked, diversified spaces.”
More quotes from the John Hagel article:
“The subjects of passion invite and even demand connections with others who share the passion.”
“Because passionate people are driven to create as a way to grow and achieve their potential, they are constantly seeking out others who share their passion in a quest for collaboration, friction and inspiration . . . . The key difference between passion and obsession is fundamentally social: passion helps build relationships and obsession inhibits them.”
“It has been a long journey and it is far from over, but it has taught me that obsession confines while passion liberates.”
These quotes from John Hagel’s article are important because they reinforce the notion that innovation is a social activity. While many people give Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and the modern-day equivalent, Dean Kamen, credit for being lone inventors, the fact is that the lone inventor myth is just that — a myth, one which caused me to create The Nine Innovation Roles.
The fact is that all of these gentlemen had labs full of people who shared their passion for creative pursuits. Innovation requires collaboration, either publicly or privately, and is realized as an outcome of three social activities.
1. Social Inputs
From the very beginning when an organization is seeking to identify key insights to base an innovation strategy or project on, organizations often use ethnographic research, focus groups, or other very social methods to get at the insights. Great innovators also make connections to other industries and other disciplines to help create the great in sights that inspire great solutions.
2. Social Evolution
We usually have innovation teams in organizations, not sole inventors, and so the activity of transforming the seeds of useful invention into a solution valued above every existing alternative is very social. It takes a village of passionate villagers to transform an idea into an innovation in the marketplace. Great innovators make connections inside the organization to the people who can ask the right questions, uncover the most important weaknesses, help solve the most difficult challenges, and help break down internal barriers within the organization — all in support of creating a better solution.
3. Social Execution
The same customer group that you may have spent time with, seeking to understand, now requires education to show them that they really need the solution that all of their actions and behaviors indicated they needed at the beginning of the process. This social execution includes social outputs like trials, beta programs, trade show booths, and more. Great innovators have the patience to allow a new market space to mature, and they know how to grow the demand while also identifying the key shortcomings with customers who are holding the solution back from mass acceptance.
When it comes to insights, these three activities are not completely discrete. Insights do not expose themselves only in the social inputs phase, but can also expose themselves in other phases — if you’re paying attention.
Flickr famously started out as a company producing a video game in the social inputs phase, but was astute enough during the social execution phase to recognize that the most used feature was one that allowed people to share photos. Recognizing that there was an unmet market need amongst customers for easy sharing of photos, Flickr reoriented its market solution from video game to photo sharing site and reaped millions of dollars in the process when they ultimately sold their site to Yahoo!.
Ultimately, action is more important than intent, and so as an innovator you must always be listening and watching to see what people do and not just what they say. Build your solution on the wrong insight and nobody will be beating a path to your door.
NOTE: This article is an adaptation of some of the great content in my five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire (available in many local libraries and fine booksellers everywhere).
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(sorry umano seems to have gone out of business)
This isn’t the Top 10 Excuses for Not Investing in Innovation
I’ve been meaning to write this article for more than a year, after a dialog with the CEO of a leading online travel site where he said that the company wasn’t focused on innovation, that it wasn’t the right time to focus on innovation. This is despite the fact that the organization lists innovation as one of the company’s core values on its posters for employees pinned up around the corporate headquarters (and even painted on the walls).
As a champion of innovation this of course gave me pause.
After all, I travel the world delivering innovation keynotes and teaching innovation masterclasses to hundreds of people at a time, espousing that in today’s environment of rapid change that establishing a sustainable innovation capability is the only way to maintain your competitive advantage and ultimately the health of your business.
His comment, and the absolute certainty with which he delivered it, made me wonder if there might be times when INNOVATION IS A DUMB IDEA.
The CEO’s rationale was that his predecessor had spent freely chasing bright shiny technology objects to the detriment of the business’ core technology infrastructure. And instead of social media or these other bright shiny technology objects delivering new competitive advantage, they actually left the business with a core infrastructure that daily was becoming less capable than the competition at delivering the core elements of value that customers expect from an online travel site.
So, he felt that innovation would be a distraction to the business. Instead he wanted every single resource of the organization marshaled to modernize and stabilize the core technology of their online business to deliver great core value for customers, or there would be gradually fewer customers to deliver value to.
This reminded me of the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) because in some ways not only does the core business fund your innovation investments, but it is through continued excellence in delivery of the core value that prevents your organization from quickly going out of business (or losing market share). Meanwhile, through innovation excellence in the other 20% you either prevent the organization from slowly going out of business (or losing market share) or grow your business or market share.
So let’s be clear, you WILL still go out of business if you don’t at some point innovate and reinvigorate your products and services, but I will cede that failure to maintain operational excellence is a faster path to failure than falling short of innovation excellence.
And obviously, the healthier the firm is, the more money it can afford to allocate to innovation. Less obvious is that the best time to invest in innovation is when you feel like you don’t need it, because:
A. Innovation takes time and so you need to invest in advance of inevitable slowing sales
B. You can also invest in innovations that deepen your operational excellence
If you wait too long to invest in innovation, or if you invest in chasing bright, shiny technologies instead of focusing on solving pre-existing customer problems, you end up in a situation like this online travel company. Customers ultimately drive innovation, not technology.
There are of course other times where instead of ceding your innovation investments to focus on the core business, you actually decide to take money away from the core business and in a sense consciously cede it to the competition. The goal here is to increase your investments into innovations that will help your organization jump back into a stronger competitive position on the next curve. But few companies are able to make this work.
So, now you’ll fully understand the reasons behind #1 on my list of the Top 10 Reasons Not to Innovate:
1. Your main business is broken
We took a detailed look at this topic above.
2. Lack of commitment to innovation
If your organization isn’t committed to innovation for the long-term, don’t bother. Innovation isn’t free, it doesn’t happen overnight, and many ideas may become interesting inventions, but don’t end up being valuable innovations in the marketplace. Plus, employees can see right through executive teams that aren’t truly committed to innovation.
3. No common language of innovation
The term “innovation” means different things to different people. Ask 100 people, you’ll get 100 different definitions. So, after getting commitment to innovation, define what innovation means for the organization, and as I speak about in my five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, you must also create an innovation vision, strategy, and goals that ideally are formed with the organization’s vision, strategy, and goals in mind.
4. Lack of trust in the organization
Trust is fundamental to the success of any formal approach to innovation. If trust is currently broken in your organization, you must begin repairing that first. Then, and only then, can you start soliciting innovation ideas from your employees. In order to maintain trust (which is very fragile), you must also have all of the pieces in place to show people that ideas are being seriously considered and that that there is a process for choosing, funding, and developing them.
5. Don’t know how to innovate (or don’t know where to start)
Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire was designed to help organizations identify and remove barriers to innovation, but it also serves as a great innovation primer. Download it onto your Kindle, get it at your library, or get a hardcover from your favorite book seller. In addition, there are over 7,000 articles here on Innovation Excellence from over 400 contributing authors that can help you understand where to begin, and our directory of consultants provides some individuals and companies that can help. Finally, if you are a new innovation leader you should join our Linkedin group and reach out to some of your innovation management peers and ask them how they got started.
6. Innovation readiness down through the organization is lacking
It’s great when executives get religion and not only commit to innovation, but also make it a priority. But your employees must also be ready to innovate, and this requires education (see #5) and communications (see #3 and #4) around not just what innovation is, but why it is important. If your employees don’t understand what innovation is and why it is important to the continued success of the organization, you may be surprised to find that they sit on the sidelines. You wouldn’t expect the organization to go from 0 to 60 mph on its ability to utilize the principles of Lean, Agile, or Six Sigma. Innovation requires an investment in organizational capability and readiness too.
7. Lack of a unique, valuable customer insight
Brainstorming doesn’t drive innovation. Ideas don’t lead to innovation success. Innovation success is determined by customers voting with their feet and their wallets, and the only way that you get them to move either is by developing a new solution to a problem that delivers more value than every existing alternative. Innovation comes from connecting with customers in meaningful ways, and this requires that you develop a unique, valuable customer insight before you even begin generating ideas (possibly even co-creating with customers). Opening up and providing access to ethnographic research, behavioral data, and other sources of inspiration is a good place to start.
8. Can’t cope with the changes required
Committing to building an innovation capability often requires changes to organizational structure, rewards and recognition, budgeting, executive compensation, business unit goals, and other structural elements that the organization may not be ready for. Additionally, sometimes the organization isn’t capable of moving fast enough to realize the market potential of the innovations they are likely to create. In fast moving consumer goods this is can be a real problem, and so companies often must simultaneously accelerate the pace of change in their organization, identify structural impediments, find new ways to design and implement experiments to quickly prove or disprove assumptions or keys to success. I’m currently refining a change planning toolkit for public release and introduction in my new book on organizational change for Palgrave Macmillan. You can get involved with this project here.
9. ROI higher on improvements than innovation
Not all innovations are equal and your innovation pipeline may not always be full of potential innovations likely to scale to a level outpacing the ROI achievable on improvements ideas focused on your current slate of products and services. This reason is often used as an excuse, by executives not committed to innovation, for not funding potential innovations. This makes including it here hard for me to do. But, the fact is that there are times when this is a valid reason not to innovate. Sometimes innovation pipelines go dry for a little while, and usually this means that you haven’t been spending as much time with customers or scanning the landscape as you should have. You must restart these efforts immediately.
10. Too Early (customers not ready, technology not ready to scale) or Tipping Point Not Identified
It is possible to come up with a great potential innovation, but be too early. Compaq developed a hard disk based mp3 player years before Apple launched the iPod, but smartly chose not to launch it. Without the elegant navigation and music organization capabilities it would have certainly failed. The iPod itself didn’t take off until THREE YEARS after its launch (coinciding with the launch of the Windows version of iTunes). Online car services floated around for years, but customers weren’t ready to try them at scale until Uber added a little map showing nearby available cars and started to generate positive word of mouth. Airbnb didn’t invent the vacation rental by owner market but they came out of nowhere against established players and grew the market by asking people to question their lodging assumptions and offering people the ability to rent a spot on someone’s couch. One final example. The Apple TV launched in 2007 (EIGHT YEARS AGO) as a hobby, and while the Apple TV is shipping larger volumes today than eight years ago, it has failed to move the ecosystem as fast as they were able to in the mobile carrier/handset space. Whether HBO Now exclusively is the tipping point for a power shift in the television industry from cable/satellite providers (think mobile service providers) to the television stations (think mobile app makers), remains to be seen.
So there you have it, the Top 10 Reasons Not to Innovate. I’ll now turn around and expose my back so my fellow innovation authors, bloggers, and consultants can notch and loose their arrows in opposition to this heretical idea.
Or, a less painful way to voice your opinion (at least for me), would be for you to utilize the comments section to state your opinions in support or opposition to the idea that innovation is not always a smart idea.
Are there other valid reasons why a company should choose not to innovate?
Not excuses to use to oppose innovation, but real situations where innovation is actually a dumb idea?
SPECIAL BONUS: You can now access my latest webinar ‘Innovation is All About Change’ compliments of CoDev with passcode 1515 here:
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Unfortunately, when it comes to fostering continuous innovation, most organizational cultures stink at it, and they are not innovating fast enough to repel the unrelenting threat posed by new market entrants with declining barriers to entry.
This is why I created my latest innovation white paper in partnership with Planview to help organizations learn how to make their organization’s innovation culture stink less by:
Focusing on the basics of culture change
Building a common language of innovation
Identifying and harnessing the untapped talents, skills, and abilities of employees
Leveraging their most curious individuals to drive momentum