Author Archives: Mitch Ditkoff

The Four Currents of a Culture of Innovation

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these days about “culture of innovation” – trying to get down to the root of what the heck it’s all about.It’s easy to wax poetic about the topic (and a lot of people do), but too much of the stuff I’ve been reading sounds like bad advertising copy for motherhood and apple pie. So, at the risk of oversimplifying the whole thing, here’s my blogospheric whack at boiling the mumbo jumbo down to the core. If you want to create a sustainable culture of innovation, you will need to understand that there are always four forces at work – four currents that are always interacting with each other:Top DownBottom UpOutside InInside OutTOP DOWN: Although the “revolution” never starts with the King, it is imperative that top leadership plays their “culture-enhancing role” far more than they currently do.The people in the trenches need to … Continue reading

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Rise of the Innovation Ninjas

Every once in a while I come across a quote or excerpt from an article that I want to immediately post on the windshield of every client of mine. It cuts to the chase and lucidly states what I’ve been trying to say, in various Neanderthalic ways, all these many years. Take this Einstein quote for example:”Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts.”Bingo! Bullseye! What a perfect way of explaining to a left-brained addicted world that metrics and analysis is not the only game in town.And then there’s Gary Hamel. He takes a bit more time than Albert to make his point, but hey, it’s all relative isn’t it? Check this out from the man behind one of my favorite business books of all time:Today, innovation is the buzzword du jour in virtually every company, but how many CEOs have put every … Continue reading

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The Innovation Paradox

My big insight about innovation these days would make Nobel Prize winner, Niels Bohr, proud. “Now that we have met with paradox,” explained Dr. Bohr, “we have some hope of making progress.” Innovation is full of it – paradox, that is. On one hand, organizations want structures, maps, models, guidelines, and systems. On the other hand, that’s all too often the stuff that squelches innovation, driving it underground or out the door.The noble search for a so-called “innovation process” can easily become a seduction, addiction, or distraction whereby innovation is marginalized, deferred, over-engineered, and worn like a badge. True innovation is about allowing room enough for paradox to be a teacher and guide – and to accept, at least for a little longer than usual, ambiguity, dissonance, and discomfort – the age-old precursors to breakthrough. Remember, there’s a big difference between Six Sigma and Innovation.Six Sigma is about reducing variability. … Continue reading

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Top 100 Lamest Excuses for Not Innovating

Recognize any of these? If so, find your way pass the 100th and learn how to go beyond them. Takes less than five minutes. (Or maybe a lifetime).1. I don’t have the time.2. I can’t get the funding.3. My boss will never go for it.4. Were not in the kind of business likely to innovate.5. We won’t be able to get it past legal.6. I’ve got too much on my plate.7. I’ll be punished if I fail.8. I’m just not not the creative type.9. I’m already juggling way too many projects.10. I’m too new around here.11. I’m not good at presenting my ideas.12. No one, besides me, really cares about innovation.13. There’s too much bureaucracy here to get anything done.14. Our customers aren’t asking for it.15. We’re a risk averse culture. Always will be.16. We don’t have an innovation process.17. We don’t have a culture of innovation.18. They don’t pay … Continue reading

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“Companies are actually living organisms, not machines. We keep bringing in mechanics, when what we need are gardeners.” – Peter Sengeby Mitch DitkoffSustainable innovation, the endless effort to find a better way, cannot be achieved by robotically lining up best practices and imitating them. The real catalyzing agent for renewable innovation is the ground from which these best practices spring – the confluence of purpose, people, and processes better known as culture. From where will the next wave of groundbreaking innovation come?Not from organizations mechanically mimicking each other’s best practices, but from organizations with the authentic commitment to take their stand on ground that has been cultivated for breakthrough.If you check the contents of the most popular books on innovation, the same topics show up again and again: strategy, systems, process, leadership, customer focus, risk, speed to market, prototyping, metrics, mass collaboration, market intelligence, technology, and creative thinking. Clearly, all … Continue reading

Posted in Build Capability, Culture & Values, Innovation, Leadership, Strategy, collaboration, culture | 1 Comment
Innovation From the Inside Out

These days, almost all of my clients are talking about the need to establish a culture of innovation. Some, I’m happy to report, are actually doing something about it. Hallelujah! They are taking bold steps forward to turn theory into action. Still, the challenge remains the same for them as it does thousands of other forward-thinking companies – and that is, to find a simple, authentic way to address the challenge from the inside out – to water the root of the tree, not just the branches. In today’s process-driven, OD-centric, Six-Sigma savvy organization, the tendency is to focus on systems as opposed to people – as if systems were sufficient to guarantee change. Guess what? Systems are not sufficient to guarantee change. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Systems die. Instinct remains.” This is not to say that organizations should ignore systems and structures in their effort to … Continue reading

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The GOtta Have a Process Blues

The Gotta Have a Process Bluesby Mitch DitkoffOne of my favorite clients of all time was a key manager in a very prominent Fortune 500 company. She was smart. She was funny. She was creative. And she was kind. Then her company adopted Six Sigma. I couldn’t help but notice that soon after this she started becoming uncharacteristically cranky, not unlike the way an artist gets upon filling out a tax form. When I asked her how the Six Sigma initiative was going, she rolled her eyes and mumbled something about “going through the motions.”In a recent online Business Week posting, Brian Hindo lucidly deconstructs some of the flawed assumptions of the Six Sigma approach… “The very factors that make Six Sigma effective in one context,” explains Hindo, “can make it ineffective in another. Traditionally, it uses rigorous statistical analysis to produce unambiguous data that help produce better quality, lower … Continue reading

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