Jerry Seinfeld famously asked ‘Why do dogs chase cars? If they ever caught one… what would it do with it?’ A similar question applies to institutions and innovation; if they ever got an idea, would they know what to do next?
Sadly, most institutions that declare a sudden interest in innovation lose momentum and commitment within a few months because of The Big Five Blunders guaranteed to kill new thinking stone dead. See if any of these sound familiar:
1. No-one knows what it is or why it matters.
With no business case for innovation, no targets or suggestions about what kind of ideas you need, don’t expect busy people to take this seriously. And if you’re using words like ‘disruption’ ‘agile’ and ‘intrapreneur’ simply because you like the sound of them, no-one will take you seriously, either.
2. Management stages a splashy event with no follow up, plan or process.
A sexy launch will not miraculously reform old institutional cultures and structures and getting everyone excited with no thought about what happens once the butcher paper’s been pulled down is only guaranteed to destroy the kind of enthusiasm you were hoping for.
3. We appoint elite teams to process and evaluate ideas.
Trigger a tsunami of random ideas then anoint a ‘special innovation team’ to somehow ‘make stuff happen’ and narrow the bottleneck further with an elite group to judge ‘winners’. Then sit back and wait for the inevitable loss of engagement that will eventually curdle into the type of cynicism that lasts for decades.
4. We allow zero time, space, resources or freedom.
People won’t discover ‘What’s Next’ if they’re flat out delivering ‘Business As Usual’, so keep ‘em busy. It’s hard to ‘think outside the box’ when you’re locked inside it.
And to prevent alien ideas escaping into the ventilation system where they might infect others, make sure all opportunities for communication and collaboration are blocked by impenetrable bureaucracy, silos and hierarchies.
5. No-one actually benefits.
Asking people to imagine the future of their organisation means asking them to care way beyond their pay grade… so an organisation that gives no thought to what motivates workers to think and act like leaders shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t
So if any of the Big Five sound like your organisation, you should know what to do. And if your boss won’t let you… well, maybe you’ve already figured what to do about that, too.