In recent months you can’t pick up any business-related article without being beaten with the “I” word – Innovation. Like the glorious “e” word that IBM unleashed over a decade ago, every C-level executive is falling over him/herself to initiate an innovation culture within their organizations.
A quick scan of HBR shows no less than 5500 articles on the subject; all with grand titles like “Structure Your Global Team for Innovation” and “Confronting the Pain of Innovation” and dire warnings like “Five Ways to Ruin Your Innovation Process”
Yet, in the midst of this Innovation furor, are companies missing the wood from the trees? With so much stacked against success is it a worthwhile pursuit? Or is Innovation merely a siren’s call doomed to lure your corporation aground?
I’m a huge proponent of Innovation but my fear is that executives – and their legion of external advisors, brand agencies, consultants and experts – often seem more intent on pushing category redefining innovation rather than meaningful incremental change.
Innovation with a big, huge “I” versus a small “i”
To that end, a friend recently asked a really pointed question. “What if all the energies expended trying to redefine categories and innovate business models was just invested in making decent products and services? Wouldn’t all of us be much happier?”
I think he has a point.
Personally I’d rather my ISP wasn’t innovating around 4G delivery when it still takes them 25 minutes to answer my service call or repeated phone calls to ensure they get my billing right. Or, a Bank innovating my retail experience “to change the way customers are presented with choice, knowledge and advice” when their mortgage rate is 2.25% higher than competitive rates I can get in the market.
Innovation is absolutely an imperative for companies to evolve, grow and remain relevant. However, the popular press has created a business mythology around companies like Apple, Google, BMW and the like. A mythology, like pots of gold and rainbows, that lures companies to chase projects they’re ill-equipped to bring to life, that they don’t have the structures, process and resources to activate nor, that their customers are really seeking.
Innovation is an area worthy of investment. However, with so many areas crying out for your attention is this really the Bright Shiny Object you should be steering your ship toward?
Do you believe little “i” innovation can be more meaningful than category-redefining Innovation?