Is your innovation culture “all hat, no cattle?”


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I’m always a bit suspect when I hear managers gush too much about their “innovation culture.” It’s not that I don’t believe that a strong emphasis on innovation is correct; it’s just that too much talk generally means not enough action. Or to put in in Texas lingo…”all hat, no cattle.”

And by this, I mean that the communication is generally one-way. And senior executives are the worst offenders. They love to preach about innovation, but in many cases, don’t spend the time listening and responding to the many roadblocks that can get in the way. They talk about innovation as if it’s some kind of new religion, but then fail to understand that the most successful innovation efforts involve a constant rearranging of resources; resources they rely on to keep their little kingdoms operating and thus, they become a bit reluctant when someone wants to take their best people to work on new projects.

Most innovation projects fail at these “all hat, no cattle” organizations because they are denied proper resources. Essentially starved because the existing bureaucracy can’t let them go. Killed because the innovation culture is just a nice buzzword, but not the driving force.

Having a true innovation culture means that everyone—from ownership to management down to every employee—knows that with innovation come destruction. They know that what may seem like perfectly good businesses today may need to be sacrificed so that even better businesses can be created tomorrow. They may not always like the gritty details of this type of ‘creative destruction’ but they accept it as part of the overall strategy.

So let’s get back to my initial premise. So now whenever I hear executives preach too much about their strong innovative culture, I ask them this simple question. “Is your culture so strong, that you’d be willing to sacrifice your business unit today to build a stronger company for tomorrow?

It’s a question everyone should be asked if they really believe they have a strong innovation culture.

Here’s the takeaway: Innovation involves both creation and destruction. Are you willing to sacrifice today in order to create something even stronger tomorrow?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Lefler
Patrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group -- a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster by providing unique value at the product level: specifically product marketing, pricing, and innovation. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.


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