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Bw The CeOs Innovation Nightmare

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If a CEO declares innovation....?

If a CEO declares innovation....?

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Bw The CeOs Innovation Nightmare Bw The CeOs Innovation Nightmare Document Transcript

  • The CEO’s InnovationNightmare When chief executives yell “innovation” By G. Michael Maddock in the forest, but their management and Raphael Louis Vitón teams cover their ears, did they really September 13, 2010 yell anything at all? The news cameras roll as the chief executive of one of the nation’s largest companies boldly outlines his well- thought-out, incredibly detailed vision for changing his dinosaur industry. “Innovation will be the cornerstone Surrounded by Bears on which we build our future,” he says. “For too long, we In the world of investments, there are bears, and there have relied on our great brand, loyal customers and fine are bulls. The bears say things are going to get worse, workforce to carry the day. But the world is changing, and the bulls optimistically and aggressively place bets and our customers and shareholders are counting on us that not only won’t that be the case, but also everything to deliver new products and services. Our competitors is going to get better. (“We can reinvent our industry.”) haven’t recognized this fact. But we have. So from this day forward, I commit to create a culture of innovation. In the world of corporate innovation, the CEO is often a We will be known as the company that reinvented the bull who makes the unfortunate mistake of surrounding X industry.” himself or herself with bears. The next day, a huge plaque is hung in the corporate We love bullish CEOs, but we’re pretty sick of working lobby that boldly proclaims, “Core Value No. 1: Innova- with bears. They tend to nod a lot in meetings and then tion.” And you can tell that the CEO believes this with passive aggressively do everything in their power to all his heart. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, he has keep any significant change from happening. To the seen the light. In the aftermath of the announcement, CEO’s face, they say the truly needed innovation effort is, we at Maddock Douglas applaud. (Innovation is our in fact, truly needed. When the CEO is out of sight, they business, after all.) Wall Street applauds — and the stock whisper to everyone in the senior ranks that things are price rises. And there is a renewed optimism among just fine as they are. (We all here on the executive level the rank and file in the halls of the sleepy company. have jobs, don’t we?) And then something unfortunate happens. It is incredible how many companies are run by bulls who surround themselves with bears, and “surround” Nothing. Nothing happens. Nothing at all. is the right word. The pure-of-heart CEO is hopelessly outnumbered. And so nothing happens. After a blizzard of memos outlining what the “new” company is going to look like, everything stays For fans of innovation, this is like a football team owner the same. Why? Blame it on the inevitable outcome who promises the Super Bowl but spends no money on when a bull meets a grizzly bear — and a bunch of free agency. Eventually the fans — the stockholders, the its friends — in the woods. partners, the employees — give up. They stop believing. They find another team. What is to be done?
  • Some Helpful Tips Fail forward. Get into the habit of creating many experiments and celebrating the learning. For example:We know this column could come across as a bit cynical. “In this experiment we learned that people did notBut we are truly hopeless optimists, so let’s get to some understand our offer.” “In this experiment we learnedsolutions. If you are a bullish CEO or a bullish innovator we were charging too much.” And “in this experiment wewithin the ranks, here are a few tips that will absolutely learned that the button had to be in a different place.”make your corporate life better — and more fulfilling. Each “failure” is actually a success, because the team has learned something important and has moved oneLet’s start with counsel for the CEOs: more step closer toward getting it right.Recruit believers. Henry Ford said, “If you believe you Control the framing. Every company has its owncan or believe you can’t, you’re right.” If you have people language when it comes to the innovation process. Manyon your staff who don’t really believe change is possible times this language has been linked to past projects.or that the old way is good enough, for God’s sake, For example, the last team that created a “workingrelease them to find a more fulfilling destiny. If you don’t prototype” may have overinvested in the experiencehave the guts to do it, then please stop saying you are and created unrealistic expectations for your team.going to change the world. Because your people simply That’s why we encourage you to invent your ownwon’t let it happen, and you are going to look like a fool. innovation language. For example, calling something a “feedback concept” may be better than calling it aHire objective senior managers. This is a nice way working prototype. If you control the language, youof saying you should bring in leaders from outside control the expectations.your industry. Finally:Albert Einstein said, “One should not expect to solve aproblem with the same level of intelligence that caused Quit. If you find yourself so afraid, so burned-out, soit.” Einstein was really smart (about management, as cynical that you can’t believe a big idea is about toit turns out). If you have people leading your research, happen, it is time to move on to the next challenge. Youmarketing and strategy group with a combined 40 years have the smarts, the experience, the skills to becomeof industry experience, they are about to help you break an amazing change agent in another industry. Go findyour promise to your shareholders. Said differently, they it. Your new peers will be amazed at how you can seeare rolling their eyes at you. “You don’t get it,” they are things that they can’t and have the solutions that havesaying behind your back. They know the rules. They eluded them.know what’s possible. They know what can and can’tbe done. They can and will bend the data to prove their When it comes to innovation, we are bearish on bearspoints. Meanwhile, a competitive team with a combined and bullish on bulls. We think you should be, too.zero years of industry experience is about to reinventyour industry. These people are going to deliver on the One last thing. If you have a favorite example of a companypromise you made to Wall Street. You must go find those run by a bull and staffed with bears, tell us about it byreally smart, really capable, really courageous risk takers sending an e-mail to Stephanie.s@maddockdouglas.com.and offer them jobs. They will get it done. They will We may do a column on it, we may alert its CEO, or wehelp you keep your promise. They believe. Most of your may just dump its stock.current team does not. G. Michael Maddock is chief executive, and RaphaelPromote failure. Entrepreneurs understand that each Louis Vitón is president of Maddock Douglas, ansmall failure brings them closer to the solution. So find innovation consultancy that helps clients invent,ways to demand lots of baby-step failures that promote brand and launch new products, services and businesslearning and create a culture of action. This will get you models. Maddock is author of the upcoming bookto the finish line and keep fear of failure from locking up Brand New: Solving the Innovation Paradox —your innovation engine. How Great Brands Invent and Launch New Products, Services and Business Models (Wiley, April 2011).Now onto the innovation leaders who report directlyto the CEO. Listen to the youngsters. They can seethings you cannot. Remember when you used to be theyoungest person in the room and all the terrific ideasyou had (but had problems getting implemented)?Take this advice: Mike Maddock, CEO mike@maddockdouglas.com 630.563.6415