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.