Businesses have been yammering about innovation for the last few years. Those businesses that are the least innovative seem to talk about it the most, as if somehow repeating the word will make them innovative. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. It’s a little like sex. Those who aren’t getting any are the ones who talk about it the most, but talking doesn’t make it so. Before I lose you down that path, let’s get back to the concept of innovation.
A fear of obsolescence is at the root of the innovation focus. Organizations understand they have to be evolutionary to survive and they believe that a stroke of innovative thinking might help. And so they have latched onto the word, incorporating it into headlines and team retreats, while continuing to stifle risk taking and creativity.
Innovation is defined as a break through, and breakthroughs happen when risk taking and creativity are encouraged. Therefore, organizations have to address their culture first as that is a determinant of the degree to which employees are empowered to take risks and think creatively. You cannot expect innovation to occur in the absence of risk or the willingness to think differently than the status quo. Look after fostering the culture that enables innovative approaches and breakthroughs will follow.