A Bunch of Flawed Innovation Models

It's a personal matter

I think the idea of teaching innovation is flawed. Innovation is a very personal matter as it occurs from company to company. So many internal and legacy policies are in place at every firm that seem all but built to stand in the way of disruption and progress.

Adherence to a culture of status quo is often incentivized in corporations. Upper management is rewarded for hitting the same metrics month after month, year after year, and the potential cost of failure at new initiatives is too great to encourage new thinking.

Can anyone walk into an organization like this and teach innovation? Maybe, but there's nothing standing in the way of old-guard procedures filling the gap as soon as the high-priced consultant leaves the company to fend for itself.

Where does it start?

So innovation needs to happen from within. You can try a variety of exercises to get upper management to reframe the existing rules of the game, but ignoring outside forces that act to spur the process leaves only the will and grit of a few forward-thinking employees (usually on the marketing or product side) to cause disruption and, even less likely, see it stick.

It's widely understood that startups are the poster children for innovation based on their need to create disruptive solutions, as well as their ability to pivot quickly based on new information about their market (assuming they're measuring such things). It's also a popular idea for enterprises to partner and collaborate with startups to introduce new value propositions and, indeed, new markets.

But this method isn't something that can be adopted blindly. Yes, some partnerships have yielded spectacular results on the first try, but that's usually because the champions of change on the corporate side had the decision-making capability (and often the budget) to make these partnerships work. And even if it looks like it's the first corporate-startup collaboration, chances are high that there were several failed conversations or attempts that no one outside the boardroom knows about.

It's a multi-step process, not a one-time fix

The answer, I believe, lies in greasing the wheels of progress before these conversations begin. It starts with identifying those internal champions and begin setting in motion the process of learning how to think like these startups do.

Once that happens, big companies are in a more advantageous position of being able to understand the goals of a potential startup partner and to identify metrics of success for both parties.

The takeaways here, then: 1) accept that it's an uphill battle to change things from the inside out; 2) consultants can tell you what you should do, but your existing culture likely won't allow those recommendations to stick; 3) you already have internal advocates for disruption, and you should begin hunting to find them; 4) and collaborations with the startup community have a much higher chance of success if your organization is prepped and primed to encourage success for everyone involved.

Want to talk more about how you can help your upper management get to this place? Click here and let's chat!