The pounding that Goldman Sachs took at the very public hand of departing executive Greg Smith is exceeded only by the beating Smith took from Bloomberg, but Bloomber's readers (thankfully) aren't buying it...
We know from extensive research that idea generation can be enhanced—sometimes dramatically—by the in-the-room strategies that are employed. We’ve learned how to leverage our creativity by getting people to think in certain ways (and stop thinking in certain ways), by adopting a certain mindset, a mindset that produces measurably better outcomes. But what about the mindset outside the room? The same level of creativity and spontaneity, of improvisation and exploration that fuels those ideas in the first place, is needed throughout the innovation cycle...and is often lacking.
Under Steve Jobs, Apple became what by almost all accounts has been the most successfully innovative company in the world. Now Apple faces what may be an even more daunting challenge: continuing with that innovation success without Steve Jobs. Isn’t that innovation’s Holy Grail? Isn’t that what the whole field of innovation is trying to figure out: how to build an organization that can produce the kind of success of an Apple…without having a world class genius at the helm? I have some hunches as to how...
Innovation is an inherently emergent process. It’s not just about where we want to end up; it’s highly dependent on where we are. Where we begin has a profound impact on where we can go.
“The greatest thing since sliced bread,” implies a kind of automatic acceptance that wasn't true then and isn't now. As someone who embraces innovation, it pains me to say it but apparently some things don’t change, at least not very much. Winning acceptance of any new idea is far from automatic.
There’s always a risk, when floating any innovative idea, that it will crash against the rocky shores of personal fiefdoms, entrenched power bases and cronyism, both public and private. The often intense resistance to anything that might require real change often comes down to the same silent refrain: I’ve got mine. Don’t mess with it. It’s a stance that can stop innovation dead in its tracks. There may be no better example of how not to innovate than the current state of American politics.
If we want sustained robust innovation in our companies and economies, at the very least we need to stop treating our creativity like something with an on/off switch. We need to recognize creativity as the sustained cognitive function it is and the sustained business function it needs to become…always on.
People in the wrong frame of mind can undermine even the most thoughtfully designed innovation processes. Folks in the right frame of mind can overcome many imperfections in those processes. Systems and processes are important in business, but they’re no substitute for enhancing the way people think.
The way we drive (or should drive) is a good analogy for innovative thinking. Like a alert driver, great innovators are those who can see problems coming, who have a heightened sense of awareness and possibility. This is not just an on demand capability, but a sustained frame of mind. They’re proactively looking for potential improvements they can make and problems they can avoid.
Being willing to fail, to be wrong, is one of the key characteristics of an innovator. You don’t have to like failure, and you certainly don’t want to go looking for it. But you have to be willing to accept it and move on in order to find the rare gems you’re seeking.