Is Innovation Dead?

Innovation” has become a flat buzz-word in business. I think we may have finally beat it into unremitting grayness, which is unfortunate. If ever we have been in need of creative and unusual solutions to problems, it is this moment in which we find ourselves. Even the concept of “disruptive innovation” has become something of a totem that has lost meaning.

I have been in discussions of how some organizations choose to approach this kind of process. Some pat themselves on the back if they can manage to agree on changing the color of the cloth covering the cubicles, and others destroy productivity and morale by nuking the team, process and business plan almost monthly. Certainly, what works for one may not work for another, but taking well-written best practices and lessons learned from an book or article (or motivational speaker…) and then rounding your team into a room and delivering it as this quarter’s way out of a business problem without due research and context probably won’t work.

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Disruption, recovery and space

While completing my Masters degree I was vicariously introduced to Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School and his many works (a sample) concerning disruptive innovation.   Greatly interesting stuff and

Disruption

Disruption (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

required reading for anyone in business or those who are creative and wish to understand the business world’s take on how this is perceived and understood, as well as the potential effects thereof.

That said, disruption and innovation as buzzwords have become less exciting through overuse and misunderstanding by some technologists and businesses, particularly as they apply to their organizations.  While, as Bill Gates has said, today’s business goes “at the speed of thought”, and agility is critical, there seems to be a lack of understanding concerning the fragility of organizations consisting of people executing on previous editions of goals, commitments, hierarchies and business models.  There are degrees of change that can be accomplished that help alter the direction of a business, a ‘mid-course correction’ on company strategy, if you will.  There are also methods and timings of rolling out these changes, or more radical degrees or types of change that will break an organization.
When considering disruptive change within a company, several areas should be considered. Along side the change, whether to strategy, execution or model, leadership should realistically assess:
(A) How long has it been since the last disruptive change to the organization?
(B) How long it will take to affect the change completely?
(C) How long will the ‘after change stabilization’ take?
(D) How much lost productivity can the organization withstand while the stabilization takes place and the company can begin executing effectively on the new direction?
(E) How clearly do the members of the organization understand the reasoning driving the disruption and can they clearly see the value of the strategy?
(F) What is the degree of ambiguity this will create for all interested parties – customers, partners, shareholders, communities…..everyone….and what is required to manage it through the disruption?