Innovation poses two enormous problems for most leaders given the way they are trained to think. First, it’s a time-based form of value. It goes sour like milk. This year’s “must-have” gadget will end up in a landfill next Christmas or at least be overwritten by Version 2.0. Second, innovation only pays in the future for which you presently have no data. As Kierkegaard put it “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Pull out the list of the “most innovative companies” from your favorite business magazine. With the exception of their brand recognition, which is the entry fee for these beauty pageants, they have few innovation competencies or practices in common that would distinguish them from the rest of the rabble—whether unique strategies, unusual financing or novel ways of hiring and staffing.
Chances are, innovation doesn’t work where you work—or only works some of the time, mostly in spite of your organization’s system and processes. Why? Because you don’t understand what makes the innovation game so different from everything else you do at work—and you haven’t adjusted your playbook to accommodate these differences.
The sole purpose of a business is to grow. This can take on many dimensions – profits, revenues, market share, brand or community influence just to name a few. The road to growth is very simple. Innovation is required to drive growth. You make something better or new (products, services, solutions, etc.) and you sell to someone better or new (markets, segments, channels, etc.). Basically that’s it the rest is just fine print.
It sounds easy enough but of course it isn’t. This is because there are seven underlying issues, deadly sins if you will, that make leading innovation difficult and completely different from everything else you do in your business. But there is hope—simple things you can do to avoid the anguish and misery that often accompany the wide range of chaotic activities that produce valuable innovation.
First Deadly Sin: Believing You Can See the Future
The more breakthrough the innovation the more likely it will occur sometime in the distant future for which there presently is no data. Unless you posses a crystal ball and remarkable prophetic abilities, believing you can see the future first is delusional at best. Borders was a pioneer...