Enterpreneurship, Innovation, Organization Development, Software Development

Innovation stumbling block

Innovation is hard. It is usually hard in an established organization. Why?

Top 3 reasons, in my mind, that hurt innovation in an established organization:

1. Knowledge – It is a double edge sword. While past experience helps but many smart brains get caught up to the learning or failed experiences of the past talking themselves (and unfortunately others too) out of good ideas prematurely.

2. Being perfect – On the other end, smart people looking for the perfection doesn’t help either.  Smart folks finding themselves rat-holing a conversation on obscure things making an idea too hard to conceive at the onset or too costly to tackle. Some time perfect is the enemy of good enough that stop conceiving a great idea from taking shape. Innovation evolves by shaping the idea one day at a time to its greatness.  

3. Afraid of failing – Smart people trying not to stick the neck out or taking chances that may make a difference because the potential of an effort may fail. It is our desire to act ordinary and remain on the proven path hence avoiding what best could have been achieved. It is amazing how conspiracy theorists (and they exist) attract smart brains keeping them just acting ordinary.

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3 thoughts on “Innovation stumbling block”

  1. Well summarized and well said, Alok. I agree with you on all points. I find that experience when not applied wisely gets in the way of creativity. Too often experienced individuals default to what they know best and retreat to their comfort zones to ensure success. While success is desitable, too often the obsession with being successful all the time results in people doing the same thing, the same way with zero to marginal improvements thereby resulting in zero to marginal innovation.

  2. In Tom DeMarco’s book “Slack”, he goes to some length to point out that the only environment in which change (and innovation is a change of the first order) can occur is one in which there is no fear of failure. Any anxiety in an organization will prevent successful change.

    I think all three points are wrapped up in this one aspect — that an established organization has a substantial amount of fear of failure built-in. It’s that anxiety that drives people to stick to what they know, and to strive to be perfect.

    Innovation requires a substantial amount of experimentation — and experiments only really tell you something when they fail. Successful experiments don’t expand your knowledge.

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