Innovation is one of those words that has lost all its meaning due to a combination of overuse and misuse. A good friend of synergy, it’s a key part of management speak for demonstrating forward-thinking, but it’s generally presented as a form of theatre. We use it to disguise contentment with the current state of affairs. There’s no real surprise in this, change is hard at any level and individuals and companies struggle to confront meaningful change. However - rather than aspiring to be innovative, perhaps if we spent more time understanding an effective way to do it, the nuances of incremental change, the people responsible for it, progress will become a little easier.
As our current Information Age fades away, and we begin to enter the next societal cycle, our entire skills system as it currently stands will begin to become obsolete. Those who stand still now will suddenly find themselves at a disadvantage. Technology, often the first stop when it comes to planning for the future is not the answer. This is a critical fallacy that needs to be overcome; while it has the capacity to improve our lives and it solves some problems, it tends to create many more problems.
Business innovation, much like a great idea, doesn’t happen with one single moment of inspiration. Alas - there’s no on and off switch. Innovation is about challenging inertia, provoking different outcomes, building and rebuilding business models. It demands continuous failure, conflict and the ability to regularly change minds and directions.
Innovation is hard. It can be quite intolerant of incompetence, requires perceptive leadership skills and it demands constant attention. Progress isn’t formulaic, it can’t be automated or set within rigid processes. It needs to be constantly re-evaluated. Repetition isn’t an option. All these things cause tensions that need to be carefully balanced. On the face of it innovation is exciting; the chance to work collaboratively, creatively and outside of strict hierarchies. But each of these carry a reflection that needs to be well managed. This is why the failure rate for progress is so high.