Our Common Future

Avoiding the Innovation Illusion!

October 21, 2015Innovation

The word ‘Innovation’ is almost as abused as its close relation, ‘Disruption’. Through over-use and abuse, both have become almost meaningless at anything other than an abstract level.  It is a fashionable word that leaders like use to demonstrate that they are at the leading edge of management thinking, but in my experience most have little idea what it really means, or how to implement it.

It has become a word that means different things to different people – more often than not attached to things we were already doing!  R&D, product development, business models, partnerships, collaboration…  Innovation has become a cynical recycling of the pre-existing!  A reflective illusion that makes us feel like we’re doing something new when we’re not.

I believe we should think about Innovation as a fundamental new business practice fit for the 21st Century.  It is – at its heart – a vehicle for enabling organisational agility; a means of positively defending against Disruption.  This is a critical attribute that every organisation must have to survive in a business environment that is becomes increasingly fast paced, dynamic and competitive.

When successfully partnered with Knowledge Integration, Innovation is the ability to react quickly and confidently to rapidly changing market conditions using an efficient, organisation-wide, systematic approach to implementing great solutions, rapidly.  That encompasses every corner and function of the organisation – Leadership, Strategy, Planning, Finance, HR, Operations, R&D, Supply Chain, Sales…

It requires a diffusion of power and control into the organisation, which challenges conventional thinking about organisational structures and communication.  It asks fundamental questions about the role of management and leadership styles; and how to harness the full potential of every employee and stakeholder.  It makes us think about the nature of collaboration vs. competition, and the very way that organisations interact.

Highly innovative organisations have a more engaged workforce and experience higher performance levels than competitors.  That is nothing to do with new product development processes, or business models, it is about successfully engaging across the organisation, with partners and competitors and jointly working to make things better to the benefit of the whole ecosystem.

When implemented well, Innovation can be a major enabler in the transformation of organisational behaviour – for the better.

I think this is tremendously exciting, but we must expand our thinking beyond the mundane, and stop using the word Innovation in the limited and cynical way that has become common.