Be Agile to Innovate

Innovation is not a technical problem. Anyone can innovate. It’s a cultural problem. Big organizations block innovation by pulling every idea into the corporate mainstream.

It works something like this…

Employee: “I have great idea. There is an untapped market for X and we are in a unique position to capture it.”

Manager: “Yes, you’re right. We just need to make X compatible with Y and, of course, we can’t impact sales of product Z.”

Employee: “Okay, I think we can make that work. I can pull a team together and start right away.”

Manager: “Right. Make sure you speak to John Smith, Jane Doe, Gill Gold, Sally Silver, etc. We need to get everyone on board with this.”

You know what happens next. By the time the employee speaks with everyone that has a “need to know”, the idea is so watered down that it is no longer innovative. It’s conforming.

Such scenarios are played out daily in corporate America and are about as anti-agile as you can get. Often, the only fix is for the employee to quit and start his own company.

The alternative is to identify a senior manager that is known for innovation and win her over. She most likely works in either Business Development, Marketing or Research and Development. Find her!

There is a great blog post at the Harvard Business Review called “31 Innovation Questions (and Answers) To Kick Off the New Year” by Scott Anthony. I especially like point #18 — Why is innovation so hard? Most organizations are designed to execute, not to innovate.

Updated: December 31, 2010 — 5:08 pm