We are moved by goals. The resolve to reach the finish line pushes us forward: at work, in life. Why then do we keep idea management initiatives alive when it’s not clear what results they deliver (if any)? And how often have we yearned for a formula that definitely makes it all happen?
In most aspects of life, what we do aims at some goal. Think of how this determines choices about our house moves, career options, travel destinations and children’s education.
Also at work, when hiring, reporting, managing projects, expanding locations and activities – pretty much for any business-related action – we set targets. To achieve them, we quickly adapt, change procedures, deploy strategies and redirect efforts. From time to time, we move mountains.
The managers’ conundrum
Why have we then limited our ambitions in innovation efforts? How is it that managers have found themselves stuck in traditional idea management programmes, which prove ineffective when faced with organisations’ current business challenges?
Many factors contribute to the present state of affairs:
- Ducking failure: Once you get going and gain visibility, it’s hard to stop as typically these programmes touch the whole organisation. Plus, executives tend to shiver at the thought of losing face. Failure is often misunderstood.
- Gathering the spoils: Managers also look for so-called innovations in other areas of the organisation, holding them up as champion ideas. These shared successes empower managers to perpetuate the existence of ‘little results’ in innovation initiatives which they own.
- Lack of alternatives: Also due to the visibility gained, executives are reluctant to switch off whatever programmes might be in place. That would mean implementing substitute programmes to collect ideas and doing something useful with them. Participants cannot be left hanging without alternatives.
- No metrics defined: There is no distinct image of what success looks like. Metrics tend not to be effective. And, when it comes to certain types of innovation, the reality is that it just takes time to get there.
- Lack of mandates: Time and again, the executive who launched the innovation initiative is no longer around to manage it. Innovation leadership all too often becomes the hot seat – executives are either promoted or side-lined.
Rolling in a void
As a result, innovation is rarely managed as a process. Only a handful of companies worldwide systematically develop innovative products. (By the way, they don’t call it innovation. It’s business as usual.)
Attempts to replicate these few companies’ successful innovation management projects fall into the above-described inertia: it’s Newton’s first law of motion in action. Initiatives don’t work, yet they’re difficult to change or shut down.
So, the dice just keep rolling in a void. As innovation outcomes become irrelevant, so does the entire innovation initiative.
READ MORE: Innovation executives, unite!