Innovation Junkies Podcast

BONUS: How Organizations Sabotage Their Culture of Innovation

The Jeffs talk about how companies & organizations sabotage their culture of innovation. Topics include: Innovation theater & why it fails, the difference between attempts to kill innovation & attempts to build it, & how to redirect sources to meet innovation goals.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge, and this is the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategy, and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour, we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business, no matter the size, no matter the industry, and no matter the geography. Weekly, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable. We’ll dig deep, we’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics, and tools that they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast.

Hey, guys. If you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our GrowthDX, go to innovationjunkie.com\growthdx. Now, let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey, guys. Jeff Standridge here, and welcome to this bonus episode of the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast.

Jeff Amerine: Hey, this is Jeff Amerine, and I’m glad to be back for another discussion.

Jeff Standridge: Yes, me too. Today, we’re talking about how organizations sabotage their innovation culture. Any good fodder for us to talk about there Jeff from your perspective?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. You know, I would say the first thing is what I’d call the folly of innovation theater. That is there’s been a mandate or a feeling from the market or a board directive that thou shall be innovative. Leadership that has profit and loss responsibility inflicts upon the organization and initiative around innovation that can feel like the flavor of the month. But they’re going to check the box, and say we went through the process without really having the level of conviction that’s required at the leadership level to make it part of the culture.

Jeff Standridge: You know, I think you probably just summarized that all of the ways probably that we were going to talk about today that organizations sabotage their innovation culture is because of this concept of innovation theory, innovation theater, rather. They’re just really not committed to it, and so they don’t really have a plan for how they’re going to implement some of those innovations. They don’t have any funding. It’s not built into their overall strategic approach, and so it’s a knee-jerk reaction that they’re really just not committed to.

Jeff Amerine: Sometimes it can fail as well, because it hadn’t been communicated well. So it feels like here’s another command directive coming down upon high, and if the organization in total has been focused on operational excellence and on improving what they do for their customers every day in an incremental way, if you’re trying to implement a program that’s going to drive disruptive or breakthrough innovations, very difficult for that organization to consume that if it hasn’t been made integral in some fashion what they’re doing.

Jeff Standridge: That’s a great point. How many times have we worked with organizations where they’ve made the declaration that they’re going to be innovative, or they’re going to launch an innovative program, but they’ve really not communicated it. The only folks that really know the directive has been issued are the upper echelons of the organization. So they really don’t attempt to make it part of an enterprise-wide communication plan and an enterprise-wide cultural initiative.

Jeff Amerine: I think sometimes too you don’t have the right people in the right seats, so to speak, in that your internal entrepreneurs and innovators can sometimes be viewed as the aisle of the misfit toys, in a way, and you have to nurture those misfits a little bit, because they’re the ones that can in an effective way stir things up. If they’re constantly looked at as misfits, the innovators, they’ll be put off on an island somewhere, they won’t be given the budget, people won’t see the value in what they’re doing.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. I think in addition, almost a converse to that is organizations create this big splash expectation and communication around, “We’re going to be innovative and innovation is a core value, and we’re going to launch and sustain a massive innovation program, and we’re going to be known world over.” But then there’s no infrastructure behind it to actually bring those innovations to life. So people generally take it on as an additional duty assignment, as we would say in the military, and they produce some innovations or some innovative ideas that really go nowhere.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, exactly. Now, an additional point on that is I don’t think either of us are saying that you should innovate for the sake of innovation. There’s got to be a really rigorous validation and a process, to use Kristian Andersen’s words from High Alpha, where you’re really trying to effectively kill innovations as early as possible through testing the metal of the thought or the concept. You got to do that well, because sometimes the other thing we’ve seen, and this is also a way that innovation dies, is you take something too far. You stay with an innovation, because you’ve spent some resources on it that you really ought to have killed.

Jeff Standridge: You know, it’s a good point there. Maybe we ought to, for our listeners, differentiate the attempts to kill an innovation, singular, right? And innovation gets created. We want to differentiate that from the concept of building a culture where innovation as a concept is propagated across the organization. We want folks thinking about better ways of doing work about breakthrough innovations, about new business models, people thinking about disruptive innovations. But just because they think of those, which we want them to do in large quantities, doesn’t mean that all of those innovations get implemented. There should then shift to a process of vetting and quantifying and qualifying and perhaps disqualifying, and as you said, killing innovations that really have no product market fit, or they’re not solving a big enough problem, or what have you. So move from the collective focus of generating lots of ideas down to an individual innovation, there should be a very clear effort to try to qualify and/or perhaps disqualify those before a lot of money spent on them.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. The key thing is to start with the problem, to use the scientific method to validate or invalidate your assumptions like you do with the lean canvas process and to do a really healthy job of customer discovery to make sure that you’re not building confirmation bias into it. I think all those things are really crucially important to not sabotage innovation. That is for sure something we see happen all too often.

Jeff Standridge: You know, let’s talk about this concept of there’s no margin in the organization. There’s no margin of time. There’s no margin of resources. There’s no margin of funding. Perhaps there’s a quarterly focus on meeting shareholder expectations, or what have you, the impact that that has on sabotaging innovation culture.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, and it’s particularly true for publicly traded companies where they have the mandate of meeting a shareholder and analyst expectations. And if you’re driven exclusively by that quarterly focus, it’s very difficult to have the long-term view and mindset that’s required to innovate well over a long period of time. So, balancing that, meeting shareholder expectations and whatnot, and quarterly returns with a long-term view of how innovation is going to drive future success I think is another key attribute. When companies don’t do that well, they’ve essentially signed their own death warrant. It’s just a matter of time before they’re going to be outcompeted in the marketplace.

Jeff Standridge: You know, we spend a lot of time in the world of strategy leadership and innovation, strategic growth, particularly, and not making innovation part of your overall strategic growth plan is another way that I think organizations ultimately sabotage the innovation culture. What I mean by that is, and it fits within this whole concept of no margin, is they don’t redirect resources. You and I like to talk about the fact that there’s clarity, focus, and execution that are all components of strategic acceleration, and execution is the willingness to actually redeploy resources from things they’re are working on today that are of less strategic value to things that we want them working on that are of greater strategic value. Unfortunately, particularly as it relates to information technology, there’s a plan of work already in existence, and there are just enough resources to actually execute that plan of work. Then we want to heap on top of them new innovations that there’s just literally no bandwidth to carry out.

Jeff Amerine: It’s tough for it to be an additional duty. I would say one of the other things that I’ve seen over the years is that some companies assume that they can do all the innovation they need internally. Sometimes it can be kind of prideful. So there’s not a healthy respect for the fact that some of the stuff that you need to innovate on. You may not be able to invent because of cost structure and time and just the girth of the business internally. So you have to embrace nimble, agile startups on the outside through an open innovation process, and figure out effective ways to partner. If you don’t do that, you can assume that you can build everything internally, that’s another situation where typically you’re signing your own death warrant, because you can’t possibly be good at all the things you ultimately need to be good at with just your internal resources.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. You mentioned a few moments ago of having the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seats. Sometimes, that’s an external expert to help you actually facilitate the process of innovation.

Jeff Amerine: Kind of like Innovation Junkie.

Jeff Standridge: Hey, there you go. That’s exactly right. Amazing how that works. See what we did there? This is a bonus episode. We’re talking about how organizations use innovation theater to sabotage their innovation culture. We’ve talked about, first of all, that this concept of innovation theater is we’re going through the motions. We’ve perhaps said we’re going to innovate, but we’ve really not put any infrastructure. We’re really not done a good job of communicating, we have no funding, we have no plan, or we have no margin within the organization with which to actually execute on any new innovations. Anything else that you would add to the list before we land the plane, Jeff?

Jeff Amerine: No, I think that pretty well covers it. We’ve managed to ramble through all the key points.

Jeff Standridge: Fantastic. Thank you for joining this bonus episode of the Innovation Junkie’s podcast. We’ll see you next time.

Jeff Amerine: Hey, folks, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkie’s Podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now. Please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us, and don’t forget to share us on social media.

Start where you are and see what opportunities lie ahead.

Our solutions have been tested and refined in multiple engagements with organizations just like yours. To give you an idea of how we can create real change in your organization, we’re offering a private coaching call for a limited time. This is focused solely on finding key action items you can implement right away for quick wins.