Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Accelerate the Innovation Engine in Your Organization but Watch for the Potholes

With promising economic statistics in the US, some organizations are hiring again and manufacturing and retail sales are starting to turn around. Yet management remains cautious about spending and more and more are thinking about how to innovate in order to provide customers with products and services that are recession-proof.

They are asking:
--How do we innovate?
--How much should we spend on innovation?
--How much time should we devote to innovation?

But these are not the right questions. Rather, management should be asking, "How do we re-shape the culture in our organization so that innovation is just part of what we do?"

If you get the environment right, a culture of innovation will easily fall into place and the business side of your operations will be that much easier. Many organizations spend time on strategic planning and business planning but rarely spend time on building their culture, the development of values and principles and the type of reporting relationships that will support the new culture. These are requirements to get the innovation engine started.

Organizations often struggle with the on-going trade-off debate between growth and earnings, short and long-term goals, etc. They spend too much time discussing how to cut costs in order to meet monthly revenue targets and too little time talking about the longer-term opportunities and how the short-term decisions are likely to impact these. By the time leaders start to realize that their growth has been stifled by their need to meet these short-term objectives, innovation will have already been killed. Short-term thinking is perhaps one of the biggest pot holes to fill.

There is no doubt that being privately held certainly makes it easier. You'll be less prone to short-term thinking and profits, etc. demanded by shareholders and Boards that impede innovation and stifle the culture needed to foster it. However, innovation is not about private or public, retail or manufacturing, technology or science. It is about all of these and not specific to any type of industry.

Read the full article at

I look forward to your comments and insights.