I just spent a day working with Bob, the Chief Innovation Officer of a very smart large company I’ll call Acme Widgets. Bob summarized Acme’s impediments to innovation:
“At our company we have a culture that fears failure. A failed project is considered a negative to a corporate career. As a result, few people want to start a project that might not succeed. And worse, even if someone does manage to start something new, our management structure has so many financial, legal and HR hurdles that every initiative needs to match our existing business financial metrics, processes and procedures.
So we end up in “paralysis by analysis” — moving slowly to ensure we don’t make mistakes and that everyone signs off on every idea (so we can spread the collective blame if it fails). And when we do make bets, they’re small bets on incremental products or acquisitions that simply add to the bottom line.”
Bob looked wistful:
“Our founders built a company known for taking risks and moving fast. Now we’re known for ‘making the numbers,’ living on our past successes. More agile competitors are starting to eat into our business. How can we restart our innovation culture?”