Does corporate mandated innovation mean innovation will never exist?

by Noah Gift

(Names, companies, and identities have been changed to protect the innocent.)

I recently got sucked in the dark, black vortex of linkedin, and it got me thinking about my life. Linkedin is a very interesting social networking website because, quite literally, every person I have worked with in the last 10 years of my professional life is on it.

It is quite a stroll down memory lane, as I add one person, then remember, wow, I forgot about that person, hmm, I wonder what they are up to, lets add them too.... All in all, it is fun experience that is almost like a high school reunion, but for an adult professional life.

One of the items that caught my eye recently was, a title a, link of a link, had, roughly:

Catalyst Team Organizer -
Create innovation at Joe Blow Company.
Encourage interaction between departments.
Demonstrate innovation case studies to Executive Team for approval.

I would suggest that by definition, Corporate Mandated Innovation, defines that a Corporation will never be innovative, and is currently not innovative. This reminds me of a scene straight out of Catch-22. Here is the famous quote from the book:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," [Yossarian] observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

So here is the Corporate version of Catch-22. If you are innovative, no one needs to tell you to be innovative, you just are. If you are not innovative, you cannot say you are working to be innovative, because by definition, the very act of deciding to be innovative is not innovative. Ahh, this is also some Catch-22, maybe not the best there is, but close....


Jose Angel Nunez
2007-10-19 07:27:33
Life is about decisions. Deciding to wake up does not necessarily mean you are not woken up.

So, for me, deciding to be innovative does not deny being innovative, it perhaps makes it happen.

Lee Wiggins
2007-10-19 12:06:38
Corporations can better foster innovation by taking
a cue from farmers: Make sure the soil is fertile.
In other words, innovation can be coaxed by making sure
the work environment and culture promotes innovative behavior.

A farmer does not mandate that his crops grow.
He creates an environment that leads to the desired outcome.

2007-10-19 16:43:43
Yes, I think this is article is pretty far from reality.

Recently, "innovation" is thought about as being something new. It is not. From the very beginning of business (merchant class in Europe), the question has been asked, "Is anyone else doing this?". Business always has been about "innovation".

What has changed, is that in recent times (last 10 years), everyone is trying to claim ownership over this term, in order define their alleged superiority over their competition. First it was company level ("Our company is better than your company, because we are innovative"). Now, it has been adopted by the various disciplines within the company, including IT/software development, to define their superiority over their partner disciplines. It is the height of arrogance to think that only IT/software developers own the key to the kingdom of innovation.

Consider Walmart as an example of business innovation. They didn't have the most money, but they crushed their competition world-wide, through innovate process. And their IT/software developers were obviously partners in this innovation, but it certainly wasn't just the IT people that made it happen.

Noah Gift
2007-10-20 12:18:35
Lee/I think you are on the money. I just noticed that the latest issue of The Economist has several articles on innovation. Some of the most interesting points were on Page. 20, "The Age of Mass Innovation". One quote by Elon Musk seems particularly relevant, the formula for success is, "talent times drive times opportunity".

Another quote, from the authors of the article, "The best innovation policy is probably one that does the least." Another quote from the article mentions, "You can ordain the money, but not the brilliance and free-thinking,", says Ideo's Mr. Brown, "Creative people like to challenge constraints and authority."

My thoughts on this are:

When there is an official "innovation committee", or "technology council", you can rest assured true innovation will never occur, and is not occurring at present.