We don’t have time for innovation, we need a solution now!

I'm amazed at how many executives will put off investing time and energy in innovation until they are faced with a crisis.  Then they run around lamenting the fact that the innovation funnel is empty.  Why are they surprised? They clearly understand that you need to invest in sales resources (people, time, advertising, PR, etc) to get sales.  Then why is it so hard to understand that you need to do the same for innovation?  What you put in is what you get out …

Is there some kind of mental block that comes with success?  From my experience, executives tend to become more conservative as they become more successful.  They want to keep doing what they are doing and not take on any risk.  Let's face it, innovation is all about risk.

As an innovation leader, we are in the constant, never ending battle of convincing others that there is a better way to think about innovation.  The future success of our organizations depends on it. So dedicate the time and energy to keep the innovation funnel full.

Do you agree?


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8 thoughts on “We don’t have time for innovation, we need a solution now!

  1. Hello Phil.

    My assertion is that innovation ONLY happens in two situations. The first is when a firm is a clear leader in its industry and wants to create even more differentiation and space between itself and its competitors (this would be the “Apple” situation). The situation when innovation is attempted is when every other solution to a problem has been attempted and has failed. Innovation is often the last alternative when a firm or product group is at the end of the rope, because, as you say “they want to keep doing what they are doing and not take on any risk” – as if remaining constant in the face of constant change isn’t risky!

    Most organizations suffer from strange perspectives – they prefer to think only about the positive outcomes of remaining constant and the negative possible outcomes of innovation. Instead, the should balance those perspectives with the worst outcomes possible if they simply continue to do what they do, and the best possible outcomes from innovation. In my experience, the second set of perspectives are never considered.

  2. If innovation is about risk, then why is HP doing what it is? The whole Q3 call sounded like HP was copping out of the “innovation” race because there is too much risk involved. So?!

  3. Completely agree!

    Your statement about executives remind me of an old statement called the Peter Principle: Everybody has a tendency to rise to their level of incompetence. Corollary to that, it seems that the higher people rise, the less they’re willing to take any risks as the fall becomes greater. And still another reason is that what one might mistake as innovation in one is really is just happenstance genius at one point in time that can’t be repeated.

    Getting to specifics, however, I’m surprised to hear a statement like yours, Phil, when its the company that you work for where you’re a highly ranked executive that’s guilty of not innovating enough.

    Prior to HP taking on webOS, I never really paid much attention to HP and considered their products mediocre to good. Then it goes off and buys Palm and all of a sudden I start to take a shining to HP thinking “clearly, these guys know what it’s like to compete and lead in the tech industry”. Then it comes out with a blah to mediocre product which, in itself, is fine if they continued on to innovate and make the product better. But no, it decides to backtrack in enterprise services, one of the most mature yet static (some might say stagnant) industries.

  4. Phil,

    In nearly every case of success within the technology sector, innovation has been inversely proportionate to risk. As Jeffery states above, “as if remaining constant in the face of constant change isn’t risky.” That’s the thing, constancy in our area of work seems to illicit greater risk due to rapidly changing market trends and mindsets.

    Consumers don’t want their tech to be more of the same; on a psychological level, individuals are always looking for a way to fit in with those who stick out. If a company sticks out, others will flock to it because it’s different. To be a part of the trendy crowd; the rebels without a cause; and those who make their own decisions.

    I believe if any company wants to mitigate as much risk as possible, then they have to put trust in their employees. Have a leader who can provide a vision and the guidance needed to achieve the organization’s goals, and hire talented people who can assist in developing a vision. Once this groundwork is in place, innovation becomes an extension of the organization which, in turn, opposes risk. A company needs to place by risk’s rules in order to outsmart it at its own game.

    A lethargic organization can only stifle innovation. A mind has to be tempered constantly in order to stay sharp and effective. Once driven, only then can the magic begin to happen.

    At least, that’s my take.

  5. No, you’re not “off your rocker”, though one can’t help but think there’s a need to blow of some steam 😉

    Nobody outside HP understands what’s going on, personally I choose to believe that what has transpired in the last few weeks is nothing more than pure genius.

    using firesale as a way of getting attention is inspired, and the only way to penetrate the mobile scene and get attention.

    If it wasn’t deliberate I guess d better sell my HP shares, and try to return my Pre 3. My Palm Pre won’t get me anything 😉

    In short I and the rest of the world agree whole heartedly.

    Kind regards
    Karsten Skov

  6. That’s why I have business called “Outsourcing your Invention to me”. I charge you 1/4 cost of hiring an engineer on innovation, and you can focus on solution now with your engineers.

  7. I agree on the topic and on the comments related to webOS. I was very happy to read Leo Apotheker wants HP to become “cool as Apple”. He actually had the idea that HP needs to innovate to get there. Somehow, he must have gone nuts somewhere on the way.

    Below enterprise level, there is often another problem with innovation: work load. Once you have your start-up going and have a nice innovation, success can simply be overwhelming the whole company. Anyone, including the “thinking” people on the CEO chairs, are busy keeping up with demand instead of thinking ahead. This can even lead to situations where planning is not even covering the next six months.

    There are ways to deal with it. Like employing more people. But for some reasons, it is very hard to get back to the blueprint thinking while others take care of your daily business. Self reflection on/off your business is probably one of the most important, but even most difficult tasks.

  8. Innovation is stifled by people afraid to go against the group. No one wants to be the only person in the room to raise their hand and question the process that everyone has been using for years even if they see a better way to go.
    I was the only non-degreed person working with the engineering group in my division. I was credited with saving the company an average of $500,000 a year in process improvements and creating a device that saved them 4 million dollars a year in waste reduction. I had to fight the system to get those savings realized because it went against how they had always done business. When layoffs came around guess who was the first to go?

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