Innovation Process – is this an Oxymoron?

Innovation Process – is it an Oxymoron

The desire to innovate is universal. Everybody wants to be creative & cool. Almost every Fortune 500 company in the world is spending time and money trying to figure out how to replicate the innovativeness of Google, Apple, Facebook or 3M.

Having worked in 4 very different organizations, 2 of which were entrepreneur run, I believe that there is a pattern to disruptive success & innovativeness.

It is interesting that in all 4 organizations are looking for that “magic potion” – the “replicable process” or the “method and tools” that enable innovation. They have all set up committees, dedicated senior resources, hired expensive consultants and spent tremendous time decomposing the strands of their success stories. After all, who doesn’t want to replicate the DNA of Steve Jobs or Jack Welch or Mark Zuckerberg??

But the reality that stares at all of us is that innovation & success at expanding the sphere of business influence, often, is a result of some of the elements that are fundamentally contrarian to process, framework & governance. Large companies focus on functional and business silos to create expertise, continuity and global consistency. However the unintended consequence of such sharp functional expertise is the need for committees, functional representation and siloed expertise. So theoretically, if a light bulb had to be changed in such an organization, you would first form a committee, you would then assemble a set of experts comprising of sales, product, ops, HR, technology, risk, finance, etc etc, who would eventually focus on finding the most effective, least cost, highest globally replicable approach to the replacement of the bulb. Effectively, sharpness of expertise, has led to significant loss of cross functional trust, and hence low effectiveness in outcomes, but great perception of collaboration.

Sometimes I feel that most large organizations create such heavy internally focused workload that they don’t need competition to prevent their focus on growth.

I believe that the key ingredients to innovation is to empower a set of people who dare to aggressively dream. A team that blindly trusts one another. A team that understands that there there is complementary expertise that they individually bring, but have the comfort to allow roles to be loosely defined. A team that is focused on a collective outcome. A team that is willing to rethink underlying principles. A team that focuses on decomposing and reconstructing. A team that can work with the grey and not always need the black and white clarity…..

I often wonder if Mark Zuckerberg had the expertise in social networking? Did the Google team have years of experience in building stable, scalable, business models? Did Steve Jobs appoint committees to conduct research & design the user interface for his apple products? Would they have ever been given the opportunity to be the leaders of innovation in conventional large corporations??

In our quest to find a method, a framework and a process to everything, we end up inadvertently creating boundaries to a process that is meant to reset the boundaries.

Rethink innovation. Free up the unbelievable potential of passionate people. Invest into leaps of faith around human beings and their dreams.

Happy I-Fluencing…

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About ifluence

I am an eternal optimist and a very strong believer in the power of influence & belief. It has been my experience that most corporations spend disproportionate time in improving productivity of machines, processes, etc but do mere lip service to improving the real capabilities of people. I have always found that people, who feel connected, listened to and cared for genuinely, create a discontinous and disproportionate level of performance, that far outweighs any productivity increase. I am dedicating this blog to sharing my experiences and perspectives on unlocking the power of people.
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3 Responses to Innovation Process – is this an Oxymoron?

  1. In my humble opinion says:

    You also need an environment where failure is not disgraced or stigmatized, where the strength to get up and try to succeed is respected. Along with it, an environment where dead wood is not tolerated and hierarchy does not define contribution to organization goals.
    Why does google allow all its employees to spend company time doing their pet projects, unrelated to their current job roles? Because an idea is not beheld to anyone. Just presenting ideas to the board & having them considered for launch is a great motivation. and what could be better than hitting pay dirt and actually seeing one of your products out there in the market – doesn’t management 101 say that recognition was the biggest motivator.

  2. manoj rajan says:

    hi kartik,
    good post and very interesting thought.my views are that too much of analysis results in paralysis.not all companies having excellent and intellectual teams are successful.its the passion that is important.Even our mahabharata says that just do your work without expecting results and that is that apple,facebook did. the creators of this companies did not make products that were tailored for the public ,they made stuff that were creative with all their passion and the world loved it.

    So,we need to create passionate teams .How to create them is something you can comment on…….

  3. Arun Jain says:

    Innovation – one of the most difficult thing to write since its most difficult to decompose. In todays world, we relate Innovation to translated business revenue. Wikipedia is one of the most significant innovation where ‘Power of genuine community knowledge being leveraged to delivered most authentic knowledge portal’, but still most of the time success stories are linked to commercial success.

    In old sanskrit shlokas where complete knowledge is encrypted with musical pronunciation is amazing set of innovation.

    For commercial success – one needs to have innovation from product design, product manufacturing to product distribution including right pricing, communication and marketing. In organisation where all the functions are aligned and sharply integrated then chances are better for innovation to succeed vs its success at other places.

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