Broken Promise Fatigue Rather Than Innovation Fatigue.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on May 7, 2007

Over at Ethnography.com, Mark makes an interesting point about “innovation fatigue.” Maybe it has to do with the broken promises of top managers on innovation.Check out what he has to say:

“I wonder if it is more about “broken promise fatigue” rather than “innovation fatigue.” Companies that you listed: the Nikes, GE’s, Apple’s of the world have all seen great returns on big bets, and can also stomach the loss they have experienced in the past as well. They know what this Practice of Innovation can offer when done in a disciplined way, and are experienced in working through the failures that are also part of the process. Trying to squeeze out more efficiency is a short term bet that has short term results. The fact is that most of the world-class manufacturing players are pretty blasted efficient already, and there is not much water in that well. Many are already seeing the best efficiencies of scale they can get. Who are the people that are most susceptible to broken promise fatigue? I suspect they are the ones that approach trying to create compelling new opportunities for their companies in the same way, and with the same expectations, as they think of squeezing profits from efficiencies. Rather than being part of a systematic whole, expressed strategically, it is approached on a very tactical level. It would be like building the iPod without iTunes, partnerships with the music industry, and signaling a direction for the entire company.

So this word “innovation” popped up as the next silver bullet to improve revenue streams as the other methods: downsizing, manufacturing, squeezing other people in the food chain, have been tapped out. I suspect that over time, innovation as the primary word for this practice will fade into the background, as it should, to be replaced with a core intellectual competency that is as standard to a modern business as having an HR department. Humans (as opposed to companies, a legal construct with no thoughts or feelings) have been in this business of innovation for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The printing press, the cotton gin, the original walkman, all innovations that somehow changed the landscape.

I think what is tangibly different now is that shift we talked about previously. Now companies are talking about making the practice explicit, rigorous, embedded in the culture so it is far less random. People are realizing the problems of waiting for the company guru, like a Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, to have a eureka moment, or the seemingly scatter-shot approach to R&D of many avenues of research in parallel. Instead, we are drawing the threads of the company together in a conscious and deliberate way to create an approach to increasing revenue that can set a large strategic vision, and has an output of a roadmap of tactical action.

Perhaps the job skill of the future might not be “manager” but “facilitator”. Who cares about your degree, can you help different parts of the company tie diverse activities together in delightful and unexpected ways? Are you able to have draw out and help people expand on their best ideas? Can you prescribe for them the actions to take to go to the next level? That’s how you build revenue in the long term.”

 

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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