The Naked Emperor: An Introduction

Categories: Innovation Insights

We all remember the children’s fairy tale of the Emperor with No Clothes. The courtiers complimented his style, a parade was held in his honor – and yet it took a naïve little boy to state the obvious: the emperor was naked.

In this day and age, the emperor would have been lucky to get away with a police warning. However in the world of innovation, there are too many recently crowned emperors who need to be told they are naked. By naked, I mean that they are making daft decisions or implementing crazy schemes without any visible degree of rational thought. By virtue of their position or persuasive power, they are able to convince senior leaders and the mass of workers that their approach, however flawed, is perfect for the situation and are able to execute their plan without much complaint.

The key is that they are making bad decisions, without thought, and that no one tells them the truth. Often these ’emperors’ would alter their decision, modify their vision, if only they learned about the inherent weaknesses in their decisions ahead of time. Unfortunately this is not always possible, hence the need to share disaster stories such as the ones that will follow.

I’d like to set some ground rules. First, I will only share true stories. Second, I will not break any confidentiality. Third, I will always have first-hand knowledge of the situation. Fourth, I or my company, Imaginatik, would have tried to share our concerns with the firm ahead of time. And fifth, I am not in any way bitter about any of these stories. My world view is that life is long, that we should always be nice to people, but that if we do not share the disaster stories, how is anyone else supposed to avoid them in the future.

So, when the mood takes me, I’ll be writing about Naked Emperors – consider it my personal way of reliving my childhood. And in case you were wondering, these are all true stories.

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