Pop Quiz: Name one of the most innovative organizations in the world, one that:

1)      Has a global reach, touching nearly every continent.

2)      Employs people with a diverse range of ethnicities and citizenships

3)      Is highly skilled at experimentation at all levels of the organization

4)      Is a proficient learning organization, systematically disseminating what it learns from its many experiments throughout the organization, making constant and rapid adjustments to maintain and enhance its effectiveness

5)      Is non-government and non-profit

6)      Has a vision so clear and compelling that most of the people who work for it are highly committed volunteers, who in many cases have sacrificed their lives

Give up?

Or, you may have guessed—if only because of the timing of this post—that I’m talking about Al Qaeda. I’m speaking not out of admiration but concern. What Al Qaeda has done and what it stands for is utterly abhorrent—and is far removed from the spirit of innovation. Yet it has mastered the art of organizational innovation to a degree that a great many organizations…no make that most organizations…have yet to match. It truly is an agile organization, resilient, creative and nimble…which is why it has posed such a grave threat.

Looking for ROI? Al Qaeda spent millions planning and executing 9-11. The economic, military and security costs to us are in the trillions and still counting. When your product is terror, death and destruction, that’s unfortunately a phenomenal rate of return. Product innovation? Ten years ago, who had heard of an improvised explosive device (IED)? Competitive advantage? In intelligence, technology and military deployments, we’ve surely spent more to achieve each death of an insurgent or terrorist leader than Al Qaeda spent on 9-11. That’s a massive ongoing cost benefit. We’ve been making progress in the war on terrorism, but at a staggering toll in life, limbs and treasure.

How should we respond? The 9-11 Commission Report said,

“It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing the exercise of imagination.”

In other words, we need to fight innovation with innovation. We need to get just as creative as the enemy we face. That’s what our military has been doing—reinventing the way it wages war. Airport security has certainly changed and continues to evolve.

Today marks the ten year anniversary of the day after 9-11, the day when you could say we began our response to those tragic events. We now live in a world in which not only our economic future, but our future security rests in large part on our creativity, our capacity to innovate, and that’s not something that has been a significant part of our national dialogue. It’s yet another reason why strengthening our competence as innovators is such an imperative.

Get the new Special Report, Innovation Essentials: The Four Greatest Ways We stop Ourselves…In Business and in Life. Download a free copy at: http://www.insightfusion.com/SpecialReport.asp