On five common mistakes in innovation

I want to share five common mistakes in innovation that were recently presented in an article in BusinessWeek. It seems to me that they are just as applicable in the context of developing initiatives for knowledge management inside the firm, and knowledge diffusion between organisations.

1) An over-reliance on pilot initiatives – pilots tend to focus on a single technique when a range of techniques (the portfolio approach) may better suit project or organisational  requirements

2) An unhealthy fascination with unique, charismatic examples – this occurs where charismatic leaders are used as templates for success for others to copy (dare I say it, celebrity enrtrepreneurs!)

3) A misapplication of the approach of other companies – emulating the approach or strategy of another company may not work for you

4) A descent into a cycle of self-recrimination – compared to others, our people just can’t make it happen says the management team.

5) A resignation to superficial changes – cosmetic change occurs instead of real structural change (this one is particularly relevant to marketing departments that delight in changing the colours and font styles in web pages, but are happy to keep the lousy content).

The point I want to make about these commonsense observations is that they all demonstrate the importance of context. Context is what matters since that is how sense is made from what is happening. Looking at examples and experiences from other contexts will need thought, modification and rearticulation for adaptation into the new context. And, importantly, the new way needs to fit with the existing workplace culture – something I have mentioned in a previous post.

And when it comes down to superficial change, you won’t be foooling anyone. Changing colours and doing makeovers might work for television programmes on home renovations, but cosmetic changes to the organisation are largely illusory.


2 responses to “On five common mistakes in innovation

  1. I like the references and thanks for making it available to others. The bit that struck me most was the blind following of other peoples strategies hoping what works in IBM will work in Dell or what works for SouthWestern works in British Airways. If you would like a provocative angle on this read Karaoke Capitalism by Jonas Ridderstrale, who says most businesses work like this, singing a bad cover version of other peoples business strategy.

  2. Mark,

    Definitely – copycat capitalism! It may work in products but will be difficult in knowledge-intensive industries. I think copycat capitalism is a throwback to the fordist model of production where regulated and regimented work processes were the norm. The knowledge economy of today is different to that.

    By the same token, there’s nothing wrong with looking at other organisations for ideas (or attending conferences for that matter) so long as you adapt the information to the context of your own organisation.


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