The Coachable Innovator: Part One

I love time. There are a million reasons for that. But the most important one is this: It changes everything. The second-most important one is that it occasionally lets me encounter people even more cynical than I am. Case in point: Innovation.

In 2016, I read this post on LinkedIn: “Why Real Innovation Will Not Come From Within Your Own Industry“. At the time, I dismissed it, in my typically sarcastic fashion, because I didn’t believe in innovation at all. I didn’t believe in it because I didn’t understand it. I called out two particular sentences from that post:

80% of the banking companies I have worked with, told me they had had a Head of Innovation or an Innovation Department at some point. A staggering 40% had terminated the relationship at a later time.

On one hand, that’s pretty darn cynical. On the other hand, those two sentences reflect the fact that — absent a consistent, meaningful definition — innovation hadn’t yet graduated from buzzword to strategic, sustainable action. Because that was true, and because I was ignorant of that truth at the time, I wrote this:

Staggering? Are those numbers really so hard to fathom? How about this? Forty percent of the eighty percent fired their Heads of Innovation or folded their Innovation Departments because trying to get people to innovate at the point of a gun is like sending the new guy out to find a Finnegan Pin, a bucket of steam, or an altruistic politician: Somebody might think it’s funny, but the new guy’s coming back with nothing.

The bad news is, as Grandma O’Brien loved to say, “There’s no sense being Irish if you can’t be thick.” The good news is, as my two sons, both of whom are basketball coaches love to say, I’m coachable.

Let There Be Light

I used to equate innovation to change. I now understand the difference: Innovation is deliberate change — intentional and directed — systemically encouraged, systematically enabled, and consistently sustained. The organizations that adopt innovation as a combination of strategy and process will establish a resilient presence — able to withstand and to thrive in the face of change, regardless of shifting market and economic conditions, and notwithstanding all manner of disruptions.

The point at which your organization appears on this scale is a matter of choice. Do you want to change — or do you want to innovate?

Are you coachable?

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