innovation: just shut up and drive

By in general, management, products, strategy, uncategorized on Thursday, 30 December 2010

Its funny how we can sometimes be carried along by the current without realising. Following the innovation bandwagon, for instance.
change is a constant, not a deliberate action!
Every businessman knows they must constantly innovate to compete and survive. We shouldn’t get hung up on that word. People can either innovate or they can’t. Innovation isn’t a measurable action, its a mindset.

Every day, I read the endless diatribes about why we can’t innovate here or there. Listen to these coffee-shop philosophers and you’ll want to give up and go home. Hold on though. I think they’ve got it all wrong. Fundamentally wrong…

Its not about innovation at all

Its actually about change. Sure, something innovative may come out of a change, but its not what we should bust a gut looking for.

I wish these self-proclaimed gurus would shut up about innovation. It won’t work. You can’t push people to innovate, nor force managers to embrace innovation. What you can do is identify opportunities to change and do things better.

Change is something everyone can do

Just drop the i-word and talk about change and the response will be positive. Change is good. Change is manageable, change is a visible and tangible action. Innovation is fluffy, vague and meaningless as a process.

Scrap the innovation department

As an evangelist of the new and shiny, this must sound like I’ve lost my marbles. But I’ve realised something about what I do. I never set out to shock or astound. Just set out to change things.

While it must be a great ego trip to run a department with “innovation” in its title, its ultimately self-defeating and I’d suggest career limiting. Such managers simply become apologists for their own inevitable failure to deliver.

Business change executives have a much better hand of cards at their disposal. Tell someone they aren’t willing to change and it will strike fear into their hearts. Say they don’t have an innovation strategy and they’ll laugh at you.

Here’s a New Year’s resolution. Let’s make things better. Stop trying to innovate. Just shut up and drive.

6 thoughts on “innovation: just shut up and drive

  1. 1

    Really? Your argument is one of semantics? Changing one word for another one is hardly a credible change management strategy, sorry.

    Ironic that you refer to coffee-shop philosophy in your post.

  2. 2

    Joe, It isn’t about semantics. Its about real world outcomes.

    Change is about looking at something physical that you do, pulling it apart and finding a way of doing it better.

    Innovation is like saying “let’s not just get it right, lets do something that looks clever”.

    I’ve done lots of things that could be described as innovative, but I NEVER set out to innovate, I just wanted to solve a problem.

    An example. I worked for a company that supported ATMs. We had a problem with people smashing the screens. The display would craze over and you couldn’t use the ATM.

    I looked at how we could get the screens to not break so easily. I accidentally found a solution that proved innovative because it addressed cost and enhanced usability.

    From a replacement cost of £200 the price fell to £20. The screens were so string they’d stop a .44 magnum at six feet.

    I could claim I wanted to innovate. I didn’t. I just wanted to fix a specific problem.

    Imagine me saying to my boss ” I want to find something really innovative and different from what we have now. No idea how much it will cost and it might not work”.

    What would he say?

    Instead, I said “I’m sure I can find something better than this. Let me take a look around.”

    My reference to coffee shop philosophers refers to those who actually stand up and present about innovation and write books about it. Yet few have actually done anything you could label innovative.

    At a time when budgets are tight, we need to look at real outcomes and that comes from unlikely sources, not fluffy self appointed gurus.

  3. 3

    Innovation is like saying “let’s not just get it right, let’s do something that looks clever”.

    I disagree; I think it is about doing new things, better and different.

    I just watched ‘Coast’ on the UK TV about the Sunlight soap factory – now Unilever (Liverpool), my own home town is near Ironbridge – a world heritage centre for the industrial revolution (though now in very sad decay).

    Business evolution, and a bit of differentiation is fine, but I think as a country we do need come up with something more profound and disruptive.

    So for me, the word innovation means let’s disrupt, let’s be radical and change the world completely.

    Change or die, or survival of the fittest?

    Business change tends to be slow, bureaucratic and dancing in treacle?

    Given our current (UK) challenges, transformational change is needed and often the only competitive advantage left to us is being the first mover?

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  5. 4


    You always bring up this tired example of ATM management from a time ages ago when it may have mattered.

    What have YOU done recently that you’d describe as innovative? Or, if you prefer: “solved a problem”. Something that the rest of us can recognise please, not some network fiddling for some little client none of us have heard of.

    I think you shouldn’t cast stones inside a glasshouse.

    I also think you have a massive chip on your shoulder about something. I’ve looked back over your blog and can’t find a single post that’s got anything positive to say about anything.

    Not one.


  6. 5

    Joe, the example quoted was notable because of what it achieved, not the date it was done.

    I must take issue on your perceived negative aspect of my articles. Haven’t you found anything positive?

    I bet you hate the newspapers and 10 o’clock news, too!

    I love a great technology ideas and write about it whenever it breaks cover. What about my articles on Wrike Social, Posterous, Wooshii, Wonga, Facebook, Dropbox, Ubuntu, Zopa, Metro Bank, well, the list goes on.

    Do I like what the high street banks are doing at the moment?

    Not really. But when one does do something amazing. Rest assured, I’ll be writing about it.

    A bit unfair for you to dis small companies and start ups, though. They represent 95% of the UK economy. And I’m doing my bit, I can assure you. Want to share with us what you’ve done?

    By the way, why the fictitious email address and website. Something you aren’t telling us?