During the past decade, the pursuit of innovation and creativity in business have become a topic of much debate; yet we live in an age where so much has already ‘been done’. How many of us observe phenomena like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg) with not a little envy, as we search for the next ‘paradigm shift’ in our own particular specialty or business space?
How to find the break through idea that will take us to the next level ofsuccess, fame and hopefully fortune?
Continuing to innovate is the key to gaining and maintaining a competitive advantage. The consequences of not doing so are obvious for commercial enterprise but is it not also the case that governments, public services, education and other institutions such as NGOs have need of innovative solutions to the problems of this era, even though the motivation might be different (From the commercial drivers)
With their traditional hierarchic structure, corporations and other large organisation are in many respects the last place where innovation, vision and strategy for success are likely to spring forth. There is also a particular conundrum presented in many, if not most publicly owned companies.
Investors are less motivated by innovation than they are by immediate return on capital, as well is demonstrable performance resulting in strong dividends (earnings), preferably with some degree of predictability. Short to medium outlook strong capital gain as reflected in the stock price are expected as a given; not that they always materialise. We live in a world of quarterly reporting to the analysts and investment community. It is therefore not surprising that the folks responsible for leading and managing these business entities are not going to be rewarded for backing a breakthrough innovation unless it is accompanied by short term certainty in results. Most breakthrough business innovations have a long time to market. Returns are likely to be unpredictable. Yet in the flattening world of globalization, business needs to innovate in order to prosper and flourish.
Most C Level executives talk a great deal about innovation. Some go as far as encouraging creativity behind the firewall. Many organizations work internally or with highly paid legions of external consultants on supposedly ‘disruptive’ reviews of strategy, business model, operations and so forth. Is it not the case that once the findings are concluded in these strategic reviews, that most organizations revert to the safer option of comfortable inaction?
Innovation is crucial for organisations of every type. CEOs discuss the need for innovation as they seek to design successful enterprises of the future. However, It seems that leadership teams and CEO’s who are willing to take the necessary leaps of creativity and faith to realise the potential benefits of innovation are in the minority. The conundrum for business is around comfortable inaction versus uncomfortable (risky) action.
The history of innovation proves that innovators are people who are prepared to create, experiment, fail, learn – and then restart the cycle time and time again. Innovators are not blessed with the “I” gene. (more on that another time). They are however, driven to work very hard in pursuit of the creative process. For such people there is a sense that eventually that breakthrough idea moves beyond the drawing board and:-
- is perceived as being viable because the idea becomes accepted by one or more people for its originality and – above all – its value to society, institution, or business.
- can be realised through execution, despite the attendant risks or challenges including cost.
These two characteristics of innovation are posed by leading Harvard Business School creativity researcher Theresa Amibile. - and quoted form “The Medici Effect” - Author: Frans Johansen - One of the most profound and readable texts available on the process and psychology of innovation.
Part 3 of this topic to follow soon on Strategic Soup