Home > Uncategorized > It’s what everyone wants, but few want to take the chance.

It’s what everyone wants, but few want to take the chance.


I’m a huge fan of the Harvard Business Review, and strongly recommend that anyone that is serious about their business utilize it (I even follow them on Twitter http://twitter.com/HarvardBiz …great resource!).  Today I read an article that really struck a chord for me called Innovation: Who else is doing it? by Rosabeth Moss Kanter.  It brings an important point to light, and one that is certainly near and dear to my heart.  To give a quick synopsis of the article (but I still strongly suggest reading it yourself), it talks about the desire of senior leaders for more innovation in their organizations, and how they believe that without it their organizations will fall behind, but even with this understanding  they still ask questions like “Who else is doing it?”  Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of innovation if someone else is doing it?!

Innovation is at the top of lists for most senior leaders in any organization.  Just do a Google search for innovation, or business leaders want innovation, or business innovation.  You will literally get MILLIONS of results.  That should tell you something!  NASA is facing challenges based on some changes to their budget and requirements from President Obama (http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/deltav/25167/?ref=rss) that according to a statement recently from NASA’s Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr will require getting back to basic research to create new inventions and innovation.  In T+D Magazine in 2007 there was an article written that talks about a study from BlessingWhite that found that many business leaders desire innovation and find it necessary, but are scared to encourage it because of the inevitable failures.  Another article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, also on the Harvard Business Review, called “Column: Block-by-Blockbuster Innovation” talks about how innovation bust be equal parts incremental innovation as well as blockbuster innovations.  The environment must be right in an organization for there to be new ideas and new paths created, and there will certainly be risks associated at times; it is just that simple.  However, innovation is certainly necessary as Bill Buxton, Principal Scientist at Microsoft, talks about in his article “The Problem with Great Ideas” in Bloomberg Businessweek.

So what is stopping us, what are the results, and how do we get past it? 

I am a firm believer in utilizing the people who are in an organization to find answers to issues and to create new products, ideas, services, pathways, and whatever else you can imagine!  It’s all about fostering the correct environment for and trusting your people to be engaged in the organization, believe in it, and be committed to it and what it does.  This is something that I preach about more than just about anything else, and to be quite honest, this is why I do what I do!  Organizational leaders need to understand that good ideas and innovation can come from all levels and all people and should not be restricted by level or title.  Organizational Development, Performance Consulting, Human Performance Technology…these are all about helping to make sure that your organization has the right people and the right environment in which they, and in turn you, can succeed.  

This isn’t something that happens overnight, and in most cases doesn’t happen without some help.  Most organizations need support and can utilize an external perspective to assist in making this transition and change in the culture of the organization.  It is something that must be not only understood at all levels, but supported as an organization.  Jeneanne Rae talks about organizational support, and the absolute necessity of it, in her article “Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret“.  The process that she describes used by Kaiser Permanente in identifying the “O-Gap” is essentially what a Performance Consultant can help with in any organization.  No matter what title you give it, the methodologies are essentially the same. 

So what about the potential for failure?  The truth is that while you can mitigate failures you can not, nor should you, stop them.  Nilofer Merchant talks about this in her article “There’s More to Innovation Than Good Ideas“.  As she acknowledges, there is a tendency to make huge commitments that have a plausible, but not probable, chance of succeeding.  Then when the commitments fail, everyone starts to point fingers to explain why it didn’t work.  Employees at all levels should be comfortable saying “Hey, I really don’t think this is reasonable, and here’s why” with no fear of retaliation, and with a clear and true knowledge that they will be heard and listened to (which are definitely two different things!).  Again, this is an opportunity to have a Performance Consultant whether internal or external work with your organization to make sure that this type of environment exists so that you can create and drive strategies appropriately and successfully.  Employees who care enough to say that something isn’t going to work and give reasons care about whether or not the organization succeeds, and that is a true test of engagement and “ownership” (meaning in their hearts and minds) of the business.  You truly can’t ask for more than that.  Not to mention that the business results will certainly show the fruits of this engagement.

What is the environment right now in your organization?  What could new innovations do for your business?  Are you truly utilizing all of your people, and do they really want to be a part of the business?  Take just a minute to reflect on that.  I hope that you enjoyed my blog this week, and the associated articles.  I look forward to seeing you back again next week, and as always please feel free to leave comments, or otherwise contact me with ideas, questions, or feedback!

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