Bruce Nussbaum, who writes the design blog for Business Week, recently published a post on what he sees as the greatest innovation mistakes made by companies. He references a study that was done by three large consulting firms that uncovered how companies that are widely-considered as top innovators actually go about the innovation process. What they found is astounding: most innovation happens by accident and most of the people inside the company achieve innovations by being contrarians and working against the systems in place.
While all of the mistakes are critical to keep in mind when we are engaged in attempting to be innovative, the number one reason that Nussbaum points out is the most important when we are considering whether or not to join a company: CEO sloth. While people within a company that live at the bottom of the food chain can drive innovation up through the ranks, corporate gravity is against them. If a CEO is inherently an innovative person who values ideas and opinions from people on the fringes of the organization, then innovation and innovators have a greater shot at success. Corporate leaders must be committed to walking the innovation talk and opening their wallets in support of the process.
A lot of new graduates crave jobs in “strategy” and to be honest, the universities that educate them are not doing them justice in this department. Here’s what the universities aren’t telling them: Every job worth your time has a strategy and everyone at an organization must consider themselves to be creatives, to be innovators. No organization is going to welcome in a new graduate and think that their ideas are the most brilliant ones ever spouted, even if they are. New ideas are absorbed in bits and pieces and it takes patience, time, and commitment to have them heard by the highest levels of a company. A word to the wise: spend your job search time finding a boss who supports your efforts of creativity, and make sure that person has the ears of the people who control the purse strings. And understand that innovation is a long and winding road.
To read Bruce Nussbaum’s full article, visit http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/NussbaumOnDesign/archives/2007/12/top_ten_innovat.html.