A Message to Innovation Directors – Take off the Blindfold

Categories: Innovation Insights, Innovation Conferences

I have just got off the phone with the most blinkered VP of Innovation imaginable. This man is responsible for innovation in a manufacturing firm employing thousands of people, and his new revenue target is well in excess of $25m. And yet, he was entirely uninterested in anything to do with innovation. “I am the only person responsible for innovation and growth in the company. I have no interest in conferences, what other companies are doing, what you can do for us”. Needless to say, it was a short phone call.

I have some experience in these matters. The most likely reason for his attitude is that his firm is going through a reorganization, and his relative lack of visible success over the past year (his reputation preceded my call) would indicate that he will draw a short straw. But it is also likely that he honestly believes that he is the master of all he sees, that he alone has the right vision for innovation in his firm, and that his superior intellect will carry his initiative forward to success.

The odds of any one corporate innovator knowing everything is zero. The odds of even just one of us knowing most of today’s good stuff is pretty low (hey, I’m trying), and these odds go down dramatically if we think ahead to the next three years of innovation process discoveries. We simply cannot afford to innovate with our eyes closed to the outside world. There are too many good new things going on, and the books will take years to catch up.

So, with this thought in mind, I urge you to innovate Eyes Wide Open and to take every opportunity you can to learn from others inside and outside your company, and better yet, outside your industry and geographic region. An easy place to start is going to conferences and workshops and spending quality time networking (quick recommendations for now would be InnovateEurope in London and PMDA 2005 in San Diego). After that there are emerging innovation networking groups that you can join (mail me if you are interested). The world is big, and all kinds of good things await!

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One Response to “A Message to Innovation Directors – Take off the Blindfold”

  1. Something I came across recently that I liked upon this subject was a simple word. Ex-intelligence. Intelligence is what an individual has. Collectively that becomes ex-intelligence. Simple maths.

    In addition, I recently watched the Apprentice (the UK version not the USA) with Alan Sugar CEO of Amstrad, which was an insightful programme to watch. Alan is known as a visionary leader, he knows what’s what. On one of the episodes he commented that if all of his memebers on the board are telling him something to the contrary he really should listen to them, he can’t always be right. He also added why are they there? Not to say yes but do a job, if they are always saying yes they aren’t doing it. These were not his exact words but the message to me was honest and clear. You may have vision but you would be foolish not to listen to others and examine what you think before acting.

    So what’s my 5 cents? Now becoming at least 15? You maybe the brightest, you might sometimes know the best way to do something. But is that constant? I don’t think so. Look at sport. I always like to draw parallels from there, particularly team sports. Take for example football (or soccer if you’re from American). We all know who the best teams are, the best players etc. So why is it that sometimes a player doesn’t play his best or the best team win or another (percieved) lesser team win over a better one? Could it be that they don’t always play the best? Could it be that it is how well they work together collectively that affects the result? I think we know the answer.

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