I just love Tom Fishburne's Brand Camp cartoons for their ability to say so much in so little space (his comments are good, too!). He did it again this week with his latest essay in one frame entitled "The Critical Path." When it comes to one of the main issues stifling innovation today, this just nails it!
So many companies water down the "aha!" idea before it ever gets a chance in front of its intended audience. That's a result of the many systems and processes that companies have adopted to ensure "quality control" and "efficiency." Unfortunately, the result all too often is a stifled yawn when the product does reach the market.
Don't get me wrong. I see a lot of value and merit in having smart processes, some cross-checks on thinking, etc. Used appropriately, it's smart to have such processes in place. What's not smart is when those very processes stifle and mute the creative process of innovation to a point where nothing new really happens. The irony is that when such processes rule the roost, the result is exactly the opposite of what any growth oriented enterprise is looking for from its business leaders. Instead of innovation into new and different markets, opening up new categories for growth, the company remains close to its knitting. Not exactly the formula for long-term growth.
Ask yourself this: what truly innovative, breatkthrough product have you ever seen come as a result of a "critical path" process? Go back to the light bulb -- do you think Thomas Edison had a "gating" committee? Let's try a little more recently - ever hear or dream of something called an "iPod" ten years ago? Nope. I don't think Steve Jobs and crew spent a lot of time in committee meetings on that one.
Innovation is not safe, it's not neat and tidy...it's risky. Always has been, always will be. It's a creative process, not a manufacturing or operational process. The question is: when will more companies recognize this and start doing rather than meeting, creating instead of "controlling?"
What do you think?