There is such a disconnect going on in and around innovation. The organization ‘demands’ innovation, the leadership presents innovation at every opportunity in attractive sound bites. These seem more than often provided as a fig leaf for the embarrassment that eventually arrives, as the innovation actually arriving into the market place that generates little excitement and often provides many stifled yawns from expectant customers.
We need to set up a real connection between rhetoric and having in place real innovation infrastructures that work and are fully supported from the top. The leader is the source or energy point to make that happen, no one else. It cannot be simply delegated away.
Tell me truly, whoever really wants a leader that simply delegates growth, new wealth creation and is messing with your future and giving business to others? Yet we seem to have so many running our existing organizations and we keep working for them. Why? They are leading us down the wrong paths, often to eventual ruin.
There are reported that there are certain correlations between leaders who are immersed in innovation and their organizations superior performance. This has been spoken off as one of the principle reasons why certain organizations have an innovation premium in the minds of customers, shareholders, investors and the community at large.
Recognizing innovation as a whole, not a black hole!
There is an emerging formalized need for innovation within organizations but its whole structure that is needed, a well-designed and structured innovation ecosystem or whatever name you want to call it, not the fragmented parts we see today where innovation is often simply left to chance.
We are failing to build and nurture this ‘innovation ecosystem’; we are not formulating and communicating where innovation links into strategy, it stays inarticulate and poorly communicated, it is left to others to interpret with a hope it fits somehow. Because there is often lack of internal clarity, there is also a poor connection to the external environment where opportunities are never recognized for their value. Equally where the customer remains dissatisfied with the present offering as one not meeting their explicit needs and where they often have to continue to compromise waiting.
Making innovation coherent for all to relate too
Innovation needs to be constructed in a coherent way to build a culture for sustaining innovation. Innovation often lacks people who are specifically accountable, it gets built-in often ad-hoc, piecemeal fashion. It leaves many involved in the process frustrated with the amount of effort innovation needs just to repeat something as the structures are not in place to make it a more ‘repeatable process’. We see increasing efforts put into innovation but they lack the results initially expected. They do not deliver that necessary impact and performance-effect often promised and so desired, to break from the competitive pack.
While we continue to lack this explicit innovation structure or only recognize parts of it, it does have both short and long-term implications to the business. Businesses gets locked into set pathways; they tread the simple incremental path, for fear of stepping off it, is stepping into the unknown, just a foreign, really alien place where fear and failure lurk behind every tree. Each sound carries warning and cries out danger. We believe clearing a new pathway leads to better innovation.
There is a movement detected in the innovation air!
I would argue that leaders need to wake up and feel that movement in the air, it is innovation stirring, suggesting where future growth lies.
Thankfully I do believe we are seeing that innovation is becoming a more vital part of organizations ability to manage their future. The exhaustion felt from these tough few years, the uncertainties we all still face in business and our economies is finally forcing leaders to address innovation, to take it as a real competence to become very serious about.
They have run out of road in many other management approaches. Many of the alternatives suggested through down- sizing, productivity tools like lean management and six-sigma are becoming dead end points. They need to understand the desire for better results comes through innovation. We need to engage in innovation for real growth
I think we are finally coming into the innovation age within organizations, at long last. Can you feel the breeze? If not I suggest you let some innovation fresh air in, others might welcome the change from the stifling atmosphere they have been enduring up to now.
image credit: Eti Ammos
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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.