Why Aren’t You Innovating?
It’s been said that when it comes to innovation, those at the very top get it – not a day goes by when an executive out there is not talking about how innovative their company is, or will be soon, or about the innovative exciting new products or services. If you hear them talk, you’d think that the company lives and breathes innovation.
Those much further down in the organization seem to get it as well – those individual contributors, engineers, field personnel, customer service reps – they see the problems first-hand, so they are the most likely to surface great solutions. This is the main reason we like to target the entire enterprise when running innovation or futurist programs.
So if the executives get it, and the individual contributors get it, who is slowing down or stopping innovation in your enterprise?
It easy to point to middle managers and blame them – especially from the workers perspective, but it’s not their fault.
While your senior leadership is great at telling the rest of the world how innovative your company is, they turn around and tell your middle managers not to be innovative, but to increase profitability. They are incentivized not to generate new products or ideas, but to improve the bottom-line.
So who are they going to listen to – their boss, who may talk the talk externally, but frowns on anything that might affect the bottom-line, or the rest of us, attempting to drive innovation in the organization? You do what you are incentivized to do – and these middle managers are not incentivized to innovate. You can’t really blame anyone for doing their jobs, but does it have to be from everyone, all the time?
Are these leaders really so hell-bent on profitability that they don’t have the foresight to understand that they can only ride the current gravy train for so long – markets change, competitors arise, and like most companies who would like to be around for a long time, you may need to develop completely new sets of products and services to address completely new markets they may not even be aware of yet.
They have to dedicate at least one portion, and it can even be a small one, of the organization to the innovation function, or if they prefer, call it “New Product Development” or even “Research”, R&D, or “Labs”. There must be some corner somewhere in your organization where those new innovative ideas generated by your people are allowed to grow and thrive.
There must be someplace where your people can drop their ideas off in safe hands, There must be someplace where those ideas can be given enough resources to determine their viability in this and future worlds, and if you think about it, these ideas can be great talking points for your senior leadership to prove that you are truly are an innovative company.
While the majority of your company can and should be focused on your core profit driver, it pays to allocate some channels to the sometimes crazy, sometimes out there, sometimes awesome, spawn of your employee’s human brains.