I seldom have much to say about innovation. I might have a little more to say about entrepreneurship, and perhaps even a little more about creativity. And always always from a strategic point of view, and rarely from a tools or methods point of view.
After reading a number of posts and tweets about innovation recently I feel obliged to put my foot down. There is too much hogwash going around, almost exclusively spread by consultants and “experts”.
I admire any organization that genuinely wants to become more innovative. But quite frankly this is very rare. Most approach issues like innovation and creativity with very shallow insights about organizational behavior, if any at all. I’m not saying I’m all knowing myself. But I do know when efforts to innovate are wasted and only part of a charade to look good and active.
You see, there is a universal truth of some sorts regarding creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation – those that are already good have the fabric to get better. Those that are mediocre or bad stay that way.
In general, but not always.
If you really want clues about how to break loose from mediocrity read Good to Great and apply the principles. After 7-10 years of hard disciplined work you may have success at your culture shift. If you really want your organization to be more innovative, creative and entrepreneurial – go to school and study the best. Steal from them and implement. But foremost understand that this is a process of changing culture that takes time, a long time. And be humble to the fact that you might not succeed. Organizations have been known to resist change…
So, don’t bring in the marketing experts or the creatives from your ad agency and think they can do anything smart with your mediocre organization. Well, they can be smart of course, but stuff needs to be implemented by YOU and your org. And if you don’t have a creative and innovative culture how can you ever hope to deeply understand the stuff they suggest in relation to your business. It becomes blind leading blind. They are creative but don’t deeply understand your business. You are weak on creativity but (hopefully) understand your business deeply. Not a good match, and very very hard to bridge.
Furthermore, consider the customer’s perspective. You offer him/her new services, features, new slick design, etc. Top notch innovative standard (if you are lucky). But most likely your employees and your administrative structures can’t keep up with your efforts. They weren’t involved. And if they were, they weren’t given time to learn and adapt. So, they most likely will not be well grounded in your new innovative approach. Question: do you think your customer will notice? You bet your ass they will. And they will let you know about their dissatisfaction in relation to what you promise them through your marketing. And you will struggle. And save some relationships but lose others because you can’t be everywhere. And eventually you’ll be back at square one, only more frustrated.
I know this is a depressing message to convey. But this is also where we can dig out our ultimate organizational challenges. By approaching issues of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship as a continuous process that involves EVERYONE in your organization, and not a as short term fix involving a few “top” people.
On the other hand, if you are cool with keeping up a charade then by all means keep it going. Nobody will be happier than your consultants.