raised eyebrow I just finished reading another survey of business leaders that said that innovation is one of the most important drivers of growth and profitability, and a key competitive differentiator for their companies (is that enough corporate-speak for one sentence or what). In my work, I deal with a lot of mid-level managers (like me) who, for the most part, don’t believe a word of it. The real objective, they say, is to convince your customers (and hopefully competitors as well) that you’re doing all this great leading-edge innovation that’s going to keep your products and services fresh, responsive, and valuable, while actually doing no innovating at all.  After all, innovation is a lot of things that business leaders hate: expensive, risky, long-term, expectation-raising. Why would any business responsible to its shareholders (oops, now it’s stakeholders) want to do such a thing? Much better to buy or steal entrepreneurial ideas from guys working in their basement, get your army of lawyers to patent them to death, and make your money from both the product and patent infringement suits.

There are lots of entertaining books from business gurus (some of whom have never really worked in a real company) who will tell you, and your boss, how the most innovative companies are dominating their markets, and how you can play a role (though if I hear the story about the 3M post-its once more I’ll scream). Problem is, most self-styled innovators in large companies will tell you they are hated in their companies, and the only reason they still do it is that, like blogging, creativity is habit forming and they just can’t stop.  

So the next time you read a story in Fast Company or Wired that tells you about the benefits of innovation, or hear a supplier or a drinking buddy tell you their company encourages innovation, ask them to prove it. Ask them how they measure it, reward it, and promote their most creative minds. If you get any credible response, I’d like to hear it.

And since I can’t stop either, here’s a link to my Prescription for Business Innovation. It’s been praised by academics who have suggested I publish it, but then what do they know.

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1 Response to WHAT INNOVATION?

  1. G Scruggs says:

    Your document “Prescription for Business Innovation” includes what looks to be HTML format codes, is this intended?

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