Thursday, November 24, 2011

In traditional organisations, innovation often appears to happens at the wrong end of a gun

When I think back over the most well known innovation successes over the last few years, and I am not specifically referring to the public sector, an aspect that springs out at me is how often these innovations occurred during a major crisis or due to a funding crunch.

In other words, these innovations frequently happened when organisations were placed at the wrong end of a gun.

It appears to me that often these innovations only occurred, or were allowed to see the light of day, because the pressure put on organisations by environmental or internal changes altered the perceived risk of innovating to be less than the perceived risk of not innovating - "the ship is sinking anyway, so we might as well try something different.

This raises several major concerns for me. Firstly that some organisations are incredibly resistant to innovation and can place themselves, or their management, into unviable situations by not beginning to innovate soon enough.

Secondly if the leadership of an organisation can see this conservative at work but wish to see innovation occur they may draw the conclusion that they need to place the organisation in significant distress - cutting budgets or hoping for (stimulating?) an external crisis that threatens its future viability.

This places enormous stress on individuals, with all kinds of negative consequences.

Isn't it better for organisations to proactively institutionalize innovation and change processes? Become capable and willing to change before a crisis occurs? To make innovation a key strategy for organisational adaptation rather than a last resort when system failures are already well underway?

This would involve changing the view of innovation to be an activity that is rewarded as a behaviour and activity, rather than being one that is punished, except at the organisation's "death's door".

A few organisations have successfully integrated innovation into their DNA as a core driver of their success. I hope more do so in the future and, at a larger scale, more societies as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment