The Number One Killer Of Corporate Innovation

Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard .FAST COMPANY. July 23, 2012

Selling an idea to top leadership before it has generated tangible results can be difficult; very few innovative ideas can stand up to the scrutiny of a core business model. But understanding the four most common ways people interpret change will help you get there.



Innovation is essential to keeping an organization alive–everyone knows that. Then why do so few companies innovate?

Part of the answer is that it’s very hard for people who are invested in the current business to truly embrace disruptive new ideas. Tom Peters talks about this when he says that innovation never happens vertically in a company. One of the fastest ways to kill a good idea is to take an exciting innovation discovered at the front line and move it up the chain by asking your boss, having them ask their boss, and so on. When you run an idea up the chain of command, you almost never get the permission or the resources to innovate well.

People at the top of the organizational pyramid are usually running the business using lagging indicators. In general, their focus is on defending present revenue streams. More often than not they are nervous about anything that might cannibalize, compete with, or distract from the company’s core business.

It’s understandable. In many ways, this is exactly what top executives should be concerned about. But that’s also why true innovation usually happens in the corners of the business and works its way up. Building horizontally gives the idea a chance to develop and gain momentum. It also gives the innovation a chance to generate tangible results that can be used later in making the business case to senior leaders.

In our experience, you are usually better off moving forward after receiving just enough permission to experiment with and develop the innovation. Trying to sell an idea to top leadership before it has generated tangible results can be a very difficult hill to climb. Very few innovative ideas can stand up to the scrutiny of a core business model. Things that are new and disruptive are rarely as good as the present product or service, even though they have the potential to be game changers.

Don’t overlook assumptions and mindsets

People have different levels of readiness and capacity to understand change. Robert Marshak, senior scholar in residence at American University and author of Covert Processes at Work: Managing the Five Hidden Dimensions of Organizational Change, wrote a wonderful article that we’ve referred to several times when we’ve come up against change in our company. It’s called “Managing the Metaphors of Change.”

In the article, Marshak points out that when most people think about change, they assume that others will respond to it the same way they do. Marshak describes four different mindsets, represented by different metaphors, which affect how people view innovation.

1. Fix and maintain. The theme here is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a minimalist approach to innovation that only kicks in when something is broken. One of our consultants ran into this attitude with a prospective banking client. In speaking to a group of senior leaders, our consultant was having trouble getting the group to grasp the concept of a future vision. Slightly exasperated, our consultant asked, “What do you want this bank to look like in five years?” The general consensus was that since the bank had recently been redecorated and since they expected to get seven or eight years out of a typical facelift, they expected the bank to look pretty much the same as it did today. Needless to say, radical innovation was going to be a challenge for this group.

2. Build and develop. People with this attitude are more open to innovation than Fix and Maintainers. These people are about incrementally improving and building something better than they have today. This can be seen in the way they focus on improving processes—for example, taking a paper process and turning it into a more paperless process.

3. Transitional. Those with a Transitional mindset are willing to examine current market forces and are looking to stay current. In our company, for example, a Transitional mindset allowed us to continually evolve as training moved from classroom-based delivery to a virtual approach.

4. Transformative. Those with a Transformative mindset are open to ideas that look completely different from what currently exists. Today’s smart phones are a good example of the product of a Transformative mindset. A complete departure from original cell phones, smart phones allow us to make and receive calls from anywhere, surf the web, read e-mail, access a wide variety of apps and product reviews, map locations, watch videos, and stay in constant touch with friends and family. Central to everything we do, the smartphone has transformed our lives.

Understand yourself and others

The different mindsets aren’t necessarily good or bad. What’s important is to understand both your own mindset and the mindset of your audience.

What is your relationship to innovation? What are the key assumptions and beliefs currently limiting your possibilities for change? What about your peers and colleagues? How can you address different mindsets to encourage them to see new possibilities? Finally, as an organization, how do you develop leaders with the ability to challenge their own assumptions and beliefs?

Your organization is only as innovative as the people who work within it. As a leader, it’s important that you look in the corners of your organization and your industry for the next innovative idea. Especially seek out and encourage the people developing ideas on the fringes. Consider what you can do to make it easier for yourself and others to see, understand, and leverage new ideas. These are the beginning steps to building a company whose innovations will keep it relevant and competitive now and in the future.


How To Find Champions Of Innovation Among Your Ranks

 Andy Zynga .FAST COMPANY. September 17, 2012

Companies today invest more than ever in innovation and OI (open innovation) to be first to market and advance their goals. When they start to build OI programs the challenge remains how to select the right leaders to spearhead them. The search for an innovation champion often begins internally, with a search for someone who is a confident leader comfortable working in an unstructured environment, capable of thinking creatively and a genuinely good listener. A tall order indeed!

This person often has the vision to operate outside the company’s traditional business structure, to partner in unstructured environments, and the urgency to drive outcomes–whatever it takes. Often freewheeling and individualistic, these are the right people to launch one-off successes, but not necessarily the right people to fuel and manage an ongoing, repeatable innovation program.

For example, we worked on a program with a medical device company and it became clear that they would not be able to scale their innovation successes by relying on the successful individual performers in their R&D teams. While these individuals were visionary in the context of their subject matter expertise, they were not very effective at engaging and motivating other innovation teams or in obtaining the broad company support required to take their initiatives to broader successful outcomes.

Creating an innovation program and having it flourish beyond one well-suited champion with one set of skills typically necessitates a team to kick it off and make it soar. These teams need the energy and can-do approach of the earlier initiators, but cloning themselves does not embed the organization with the attributes and skills that build long-term, sustainable, collaborative innovation.

As more companies over the years have taken a real interest in investing in innovation, we worked to develop a methodology that would be effective and repeatable for building successful innovation teams.

We practiced what we preached, so to speak–as I often say “going beyond our four walls” to find the missing piece we needed to build a model that would help companies select leaders to drive and develop innovation cultures from the inside out. We decided to partner with a great company with expertise that complemented our own, CALIPER, a human capital management company that, for the past 50 years, has helped more than 28,000 companies in 13 countries select and develop top performers.

Together, we co-developed a customized and scientifically sound model to build out teams that would be well positioned to grow OI programs and innovation-driven business cultures. The specialized strengths required for managing innovation teams range from being comfortable reaching into the outside world for new solutions, to being able to help groups of intelligent, independent, and strong-minded individuals to work more collaboratively.

We found there are actually two key roles needed in an OI team–the visionary and the implementer. Knowing this, we developed two Collaborative Innovation Profiles for Innovation Leaders and Project Managers.

The profiles surface key differences between these two roles. For instance, Innovation Leaders are visionary, strong communicators, and comfortable with risks. Project Managers are skilled in keeping innovation teams on task, with a sensitivity to organizational needs and goals, and strong attention to detail. Their teams are enhanced by individuals with diverse backgrounds and qualities, from dreamers who push everyone’s thinking “to the edge,” to experts who know what it takes to accomplish specific outcomes. The combined traits build sustainable innovation because the leaders bring fresh blue-sky thinking and the project managers create accountability to ensure a stream of outcomes.

Here is a quick, high-level snapshot of traits that each of the leadership profiles have, to be referenced in building effective innovation leadership teams:

Innovation Leaders:

•Create & Communicate Collaborative Innovation Vision

•Innovation & Creativity

•Analytical Thinking

•Leading Change

•Organizational Awareness

•Strategic Partnering

Project Managers:

•Planning & Organizing

•Quality Orientation

•Innovation & Creativity

•Analytical Thinking

•Business Acumen


•Team Leadership
Innovation is forward-looking by nature. On the surface, selecting the right team to lead innovation in your organization may seem to require a simple leap of faith in selecting inspirational leaders to make it happen. But this isn’t true.

Personality profiling, and knowing what management practices and organizational structures spark innovative thinking and action, is the not-so magic combination that delivers results and value.

Be cautious, though–a great match for the role of the “visionary” is not a great match for that of the “implementer.” And be aware of the traits that can become the demise of either role:

Innovation Leaders:



Project Managers:



Organizations that succeed do so because these “skunkworks” teams are embedded throughout the organization; they include cross-functional contributions from the organization broadly and are empowered with the freedom, budgets, and tools to operate in parallel structures. Still, finding the key integration points is important to unload projects from the innovation team, and make way for new initiatives.

Innovation is a way of life, a daily challenge, and indeed a thrill for those who are incentivized to think and act fearlessly, knowing the risks (and embracing the rewards) of being the first and the only to cross the boundaries that trailblazers do. With a proven methodology for selecting leaders with qualities that will drive innovation teams forward–rather than in circles–you have a recipe for success on the road to realizing an innovation culture.

Sony Founder,Akio Morita’s Advice on success

 Joel Brown | April 12, 2013

akio morita Sony

Japanese businessman and co-founder of Sony “Akio Morita” was an innovator of high quality electronics, selling billions in revenue around the world. Akio Morita’s business strength was in his ability to understand both Western and Eastern cultures and combine the best of both worlds to globalize Sony as a household name.

In 1966, Morita wrote a book called Gakureki Muyō Ron, which meansNever Mind School Records“, where Akio stresses that school records are not important to success or one’s business skills.

So what skills are important for achieving success? Akio Morita shares his advice for breaking down barriers in the business world.

Akio Morita’s Success Advice

Why Akio Morita Believes Sony Succeeded:

Morita with sony Camera

1. “I established the rule that once we hire an employee, his schools records are a matter of the past, and are no longer used to evaluate his work or decide on his promotion.”

2. “My solution to the problem of unleashing creativity is always to set up a target.”

3. “I believe one of the reasons we went through such a remarkable growth period was that we had this atmosphere of free discussion. A company will get nowhere if all of the thinking is left to management.”

4. “I have always made it a point to know our employees, to visit every facility of our company, and to try to meet and know every single employee.”

5. “The company must not throw money away on huge bonuses for executives or other frivolities but must share its fate with the workers.”

Akio Morita’s Business Advice:

Akio Morita

1. “Advertising and promotion alone will not sustain a bad product or a product that is not right for the times.”

2. “From a management standpoint, it is very important to know how to unleash people’s inborn creativity. My concept is that anybody has creative ability, but very few people know how to use it.”

3. “I believe people work for satisfaction. I believe it is a big mistake to think that money is the only way to compensate a person for his work. People need money, but they also want to be happy in their work and proud of it.”

4. “There is no secret ingredient or hidden formula responsible for the success of the best Japanese companies.”

5. “There are three creativities: creativity in technology, in product planning, and in marketing. To have any one of these without the others is self defeating in business.”

On Being Humble:

If you go through life convinced that your way is always best, all the new ideas in the world will pass you by.

Thoughts On Innovation:

Carefully watch how people live, get an intuitive sense as to what they might want and then go with it. Don’t do market research. I knew we needed a weapon to break through to the U.S. market, and it had to be something different, something that nobody else was making.

Do’s & Don’ts:

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. But make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.

Thoughts On Success:

We all learn by imitating, as children, as students, as novices in the world of business. And then we grow up and learn to blend our innate abilities with the rules or principles we have learned.

Akio Morita’s Final Years

akio morita success

On November 25, 1994, Morita stepped down as Sony chairman after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while playing tennis. He was succeeded by Norio Ohga, who had joined the company in the 1950s after sending Akio Morita a letter denouncing the poor quality of the company’s tape recorders. Instead of taking offense, Akio saw a talent in Norio and decided to hire him for his honesty and keen eye for improvement.

On October 3, 1999, Morita died of pneumonia at the age of 78.

Although Akio is no longer with us, his story and his knowledge of transforming the business world still lives on.


Better Innovation


James  Scott.CEO  FORUM.APRIL  2012



Without the ability to innovate, businesses die. Yet firms often stumble when it comes to even modest attempts at innovation. The truth of the matter is that successful innovation is hard. Few businesses get it consistently right, but most can learn how to improve their innovation strike rate.

Innovation enjoys an exalted status. No one has a bad word for it. Is there a corporate mission statement anywhere that fails to mention innovation? Has anyone ever seen an organisation describe itself as ‘non-innovative’?

People certainly possess high expectations of innovation.

The website for the federal government’s Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education tells us that innovation ‘…is the key to answering the challenge of climate change, the challenge of national security, the age-old challenge of disease and want. It is the key to creating a future that is better than the past.’ It goes on to say that innovative thought is wasted if not properly captured and practically applied. That’s what the national innovation system is intended to do.

The department is very ambitious when it comes to innovation. Indeed it has spawned a whole ecosystem of innovation coordinating committees, innovation advisory councils and separate industry bodies devoted to the subject. In turn, much of this innovation infrastructure is replicated at the state and territory level. Australia even boasts a ‘festival of innovation’.

In short, innovation has become a patriotic duty.

Practically, most business people have somewhat more modest ambitions for innovation, although they are conscious of how, for example, innovation in information technology has given birth to entirely new industries, destroyed others, transformed consumer expectations and behaviours, and created a whole new dimension of business value.

Innovation has been described as change that adds value. It is the adding of value that is difficult — sometimes change simply produces something that is different, but not better. It can be difficult to make things even a little bit better and all too easy to make them quite a lot worse.

What we do know is that an organisation’s culture will often determine how successful it is at innovation. Innovation rarely just spontaneously happens. It has to be incubated and nurtured. Get the culture right and the rest will likely follow.

Understanding innovation

Last year KPMG and the University of Sydney decided to take another look at the link between innovation and organisational culture. The result was a study, Managing Successful Innovation, based on the real-life experiences of 27 CEOs drawn from the top 300 ASX listed companies. We collected 54 stories about innovation from these CEOs, half that were about successful innovation and the remainder that were about failed innovations. We grouped the CEO stories into categories representing three styles or types of innovation we had identified in typical business environments:

  • incremental innovation (24 stories)
  • evolutionary innovation (16)
  • revolutionary innovation (14)

Yes, classifications of this kind are arbitrary, but they do help make sense of people’s experiences and, in this case, they do reflect what actually happens in the business world. We are interested in how CEO behaviour — particularly the force of the CEO’s personality and his/her approach to new ideas — supports or undermines particular innovation strategies or styles. Of course, the way in which CEOs think about innovation is at least partly shaped by the problems they need to solve, the contexts they find themselves in and entrenched organisational cultures. Nevertheless we believe the classification used in the study respects the varying forms innovation can take and the different demands it makes of organisations and their CEOs.

Incremental innovation

Incremental innovation is about doing what the organisation already does now, but doing it better. It often means solving problems rather than introducing something completely new. What needs to be done to make incremental innovation a reality is often well understood. The best person to solve the problem is not necessarily the CEO, but someone (or some group) at the organisation’s coalface.

Incremental innovation is usually driven from inside the organisation and typically extends the use of existing systems and processes. It is bottom up rather than top down. It often works best when senior management empowers people to make the changes, rather than trying to impose them from on high. It is typically non-threatening to powerful and influential people in the organisation; it does not demand a forceful personality to drive it through to completion.

The incremental approaches to innovation described by CEOs in the study were simple and made part of normal business practice. One organisation asked its people to write down and submit the details of any process they were involved with that did not make sense or seemed pointless. More than 2500 submissions were received over a 3-year period, most of which were considered very constructive.

Evolutionary innovation

Moderately high levels of uncertainty in an organisation’s external or internal environment can trigger evolutionary innovation. It is about significantly extending or changing the existing business model, but not throwing it out altogether. It can sometimes seem very threatening to people. It demands a great deal of the organisation and of the CEO individually. Indeed the CEO’s role is central.

For evolutionary innovation to succeed, the CEO has to believe in the idea. Australian CEOs typically consider an organisation’s culture as either the key enabler of evolutionary innovation, or the main impediment to its progress. The organisation’s structure is often the starting point. (If the structure is unsuitable to the task, it can be the finishing point too.) Three other interesting insights came out from the CEOs’ experience with evolutionary innovation.

  • Process seemed to play an ambiguous role in the stories of evolutionary change. In recounting their success stories, CEOs never mentioned the need for more or better process, yet in their stories of failure the need for process was often raised. Then process was valued because it appeared to reduce uncertainty and risk.
  • Many CEOs were suspicious of an ideas-based approach to innovation where the innovation was based on a single powerful idea or vision. Yes, ideas were the essential starting point, but being able to execute them effectively was what really mattered. Execution, in turn, came back to personality driven, culture sourced and process based styles and how these could be coordinated.
  • CEOs agreed that successful evolutionary innovation had to cut through organisational hierarchies and silos. It was insufficient to possess the right culture if organisational structure stopped good things from happening.

Revolutionary innovation

Industry level or economy wide disruption is often the precursor of revolutionary innovation. Many believe this is precisely what is happening in many sectors of the Australian economy today. Revolutionary innovation can involve radical surgery to, or the replacement of, an organisation’s business model. The need for change can be so strong and obvious, that a collaborative, inclusive management style on the part of the CEO can be more effective than the possession of a strong personality.

Interestingly, the stories uncovered in our study suggest that revolutionary innovation in Australia is likely to be the result of collaboration between separate organisations. The explanation appears to be that because revolutionary innovation is innately high risk, forming partnerships and getting strong stakeholder buy-in are often regarded as essential to success. With several parties wanting the same outcome, the change process picks up added momentum and the imperative need to collaborate overrides personality factors.

By way of contrast, much of the American literature on innovation emphasises the pivotal role of the charismatic entrepreneur in driving revolutionary innovation. Australia, it seems, is different.

Consciously or unconsciously, some CEOs adopted a probability approach to revolutionary innovation. They accepted that most attempts at revolutionary innovation would fail, but if the organisation pursued a sufficient number of ideas, there would be some successes. The problem, of course, is that the cost of the failed ideas could be greater than the profit from the successful ones.

Our analysis also found that the cost of failed revolutionary innovation increased when CEOs failed to let go of an idea when the signals suggested they should. Excessive emotional engagement with an idea contributed to this problem, although a degree of emotional involvement is needed to overcome the obstacles to success.

Innovation in perspective

The moral of all this is that innovation takes different forms. It is rarely just the one big idea. Innovation is about possibilities and how well they are recognised and realised.

Perhaps the key conclusion that can be drawn from our study is that there shouldn’t be a single approach to different innovation forms and situations, risking failure where success might have otherwise been possible. Here CEO self-knowledge is a potential antidote. Recognising one’s own management style and one’s approach to innovation and change can result in a more informed, considered and balanced approach to the innovation task.

Our analysis came up with several other critical conclusions.

  • An organisation in need of revolutionary change requires a CEO prepared to partner with others and manage uncertainty in a systematic manner.
  • A CEO with a charismatic, personality driven management style is better placed to deliver evolutionary change than someone with a more detached approach.
  • Successful innovation should not be too much of a gamble.
  • Robust processes are critical for success, reducing both the probability and magnitude of failure.
  • Belief and emotion are important factors in the CEO’s ability to engage with innovation, without distorting judgment
  • It is wise for CEOs to think about the optimum level of resources they should allocate to innovation.

Cultivating innovation: Learning from the world’s best

Wendy Montague.CEO  FORUM. June  2012
Hay Group’s seventh annual report on the “Best Companies for Leadership”, provides a useful checklist on how the world’s best leaders create an environment where innovation thrives. Almost 7,000 leaders from more than 2,300 organisations worldwide participated in this in-depth study which provides a detailed picture of how top companies sustain high performance through their leadership practices. The study ranks the top companies across the globe and also examines how those companies nurture talent and foster innovation in their ranks. This year, General Electric topped the list, followed by Procter & Gamble, IBM, Microsoft and Coca-Cola.Innovation is the key to future growth and ability to survive in a fiercely competitive global marketplace. And placing emphasis on innovation and leadership has been proven to deliver a competitive advantage. Over a 10-year period, the Top 20 Best Companies for Leadership consistently outperformed their peers, producing a 5.39 per cent shareholder return, compared to a 2.92 per cent shareholder return generated by the S&P 500.

How do these Top 20 Best Companies for Leadership create workplace environments and processes that enable innovation to thrive? Many companies praise innovation, but the Best Companies for Leadership approach it in a disciplined way by, promoting peer collaboration that breaks down functional silos, celebrating successes, learning from setbacks and fostering a culture that encourages a passion for innovation throughout the organisation.

The Best Companies for Leadership also remove barriers and create the right environment for new ideas to be heard. This year’s Top 20 companies reported that they cast a wide net for ideas and develop their people to think more broadly, while providing structured opportunities for younger employees to promote innovative ideas. Traditional hierarchies take a back seat. For example, if an individual has an excellent idea, they can bypass the chain of command without the threat of negative consequences.

In the Pacific region, (Australia and New Zealand) respondents indicated that the gap is narrowing to the benchmark set by the Top 20 in areas such as innovation, collaboration, talent management and development. However, there are some other critical areas where Australia and New Zealand are clearly underperforming, including structuring organisations for speed and flexibility and taking a more positive approach to setbacks by using failure or poor results as an opportunity for leaders to grow and improve.

Results from the study revealed the top 5 things Australian and New Zealand companies value most in leaders:

  • Broad perspectives – expanding employees’ assignments to stretch their capabilities (82 per cent)
  • Close collaboration among leaders in different parts of the business (79 per cent)
  • Creating a work climate that motivates employees to do their best (75 per cent)
  • Excellent ideas may bypass the chain of command (75 per cent)
  • Problem-solving by gathering points from multiple perspectives (74 per cent)

Other lessons from the top ranked companies:

  • This year’s top companies are better positioned for talent now and in the future compared to other companies, as their leaders motivate employees to do their best and actively manage a pool of successors for mission-critical roles.
  • The top companies are structured for speed and agility, with organisational structure favouring quick communications path and leaders at the frontline having all the decision-making authority needed.
  • Collaboration and rewarding it accordingly. Effective leaders can easily bridge functional, cultural, generational or geographic boundaries. They also implement incentive plans to put significant weight on team-based measures, and evaluate and reward leaders based on their ability to build productive relationships.

How to Find New Business Ideas in Everyday Life

BY Nadia Goodman|ENTERPRENEUR|December 27, 2012


The idea for Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom was born on a family vacation. Walt Disney was visiting Tivoli Gardens, one of Europe’s oldest amusement parks, when he realized he could create a bigger, better version in California. His method is not unusual: Great entrepreneurs find new business ideas by paying attention to opportunities in everyday life.

“The world around you is filled with ideas that can be useful,” says Andy Boynton, co-author of The Idea Hunter (Jossey-Bass, 2011).

None of those ideas will come to you by thinking really hard in a vacuum. You have to get out in the world and practice behaviors that lead you to new ideas. “Innovation is not about how smart you are; it’s about the hunt for ideas,” Boynton says. “Behavior trumps IQ.”

By learning to think and act in ways that bring new opportunities to light, you can find a constant stream of business ideas in everyday life. Here are three tips to help you find inspiration in the world around you.

1. Keep a list of opportunities. “At any given time, there’s a job that has to get done,” Boynton says, meaning the world is full of problems that need to be solved. As you go about daily life, keep a running list of jobs that others have abandoned, ignored, or failed to address effectively. Each is a potential opportunity.

“Start with your own experience,” Boynton says. Ask yourself, what bugs me? What could be easier? More fun? More convenient? Your own frustrations will guide you to real problems that can drive a new business idea.

2. Hunt for ideas in diverse places. New ideas require creativity, which thrives on novelty and diversity. You might find a great idea while you’re on vacation or unexpected inspiration in an experimental art exhibit. “If you open your eyes, the answer is there,” Boynton says. “But your world has to be broad enough and diverse enough to feed you the ideas you need.”

Your search needs to be intentional. “When effective idea hunters talk to people, they’re not just going through a social dance,” Boynton says. They’re looking to learn what others know or do — mining the world around them for useful ideas.

3. Notice how others solve business problems. In any situation, you are surrounded by problems that someone has tried to solve. Each is an opportunity to learn. Start noticing how convenience stores organize inventory, how packaging catches your eye, or how Amazon encourages impulse buys. You might find a better way to solve the same problem or inspiration for solving a different problem.

“You really can borrow and reuse ideas, and reapply them,” Boynton says. “If you develop a mental habit of [noticing others’ solutions], it opens your eyes to what’s out there.”

Happy New Year


I wish us all a very happy and prosperous new  year.

I pray that we shall have the grace to provide excellent leadership,that we’ll be  much more innovative in our use of reources (especially our minds),that our Enterpreneural endeavours shall succeed in the generation of wealth for us and others,and that we’ll have sufficient strategic insight to stay ahead of the pack.In Jesus name.Amen.