Innovation poses two enormous problems for most leaders given the way they are trained to think. First, it’s a time-based form of value. It goes sour like milk. This year’s “must-have” gadget will end up in a landfill next Christmas or at least be overwritten by Version 2.0. Second, innovation only pays in the future for which you presently have no data. As Kierkegaard put it “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Pull out the list of the “most innovative companies” from your favorite business magazine. With the exception of their brand recognition, which is the entry fee for these beauty pageants, they have few innovation competencies or practices in common that would distinguish them from the rest of the rabble—whether unique strategies, unusual financing or novel ways of hiring and staffing.
Chances are, innovation doesn’t work where you work—or only works some of the time, mostly in spite of your organization’s system and processes. Why? Because you don’t understand what makes the innovation game so different from everything else you do at work—and you haven’t adjusted your playbook to accommodate these differences.
The sole purpose of a business is to grow. This can take on many dimensions – profits, revenues, market share, brand or community influence just to name a few. The road to growth is very simple. Innovation is required to drive growth.