When we implement a digital transformation process or just try to innovate in an established organization, the internal immune system always attacks. Sounds familiar?
When I started in this world of technology and innovation, I thought (silly of me!) that the key to innovation is to use cutting-edge technology. I soon learnt that that wasn't true, a new technology or invention, does not turn into an innovation until it hasn't been commercialized or applied successfully, i.e., until value isn’t generated with it. As Kenneth Morse well says “innovation is invention plus commercialization”.
Soon after, I fully immersed myself in the innovation methodologies with the goal to apply them to create a value proposition suitable for clients and users. As Steve Blank well says "no business plan survives first contact with customers".In this context, methodologies like Lean Startup, Customer Development and Design Thinking help us follow the steps to evaluate and iterate new ideas until finding the right fit for the market.
However, usually, the enemy isn’t outside but inside the organization; and despite using innovation methodologies, there comes a point when the immune system of the organization turns against these new ideas, products or services, no matter how beneficial they can be.
Why does the immune system of the organization attack innovation? There are many reasons, but we can highlight the following ones:
The current business works(better or worse, but it works) and, many times, new ideas put at risk the traditional model and, consequently, the immune system just tries to protect the current business model that is working. Innovation is risky, we know this, but what's most risky is no to risk. We need to be able to innovate and manage the risk in the right way.
Leadership doesn't have the right mindset and doesn't understand innovation methodologies, so leaders and managers make decisions based on their own intuition and therefore block the work of the innovation teams that try to create new products, services or exponential organizations. Evolution and innovation have to be carried out in such a way that ideas generation happens in a bottom-up way and the support for innovation happens in a top-down approach (and not the other way around).
The current incentive system and processes don’t support people to start new initiatives, nor to fail, while the reality is that the change that takes us to success is a consecutive sequence of failures.
Whatever the reason behind it is, the organizations’ antibodies block innovation, the truth is that the immune system isn’t anything else than the actions that the members of the organization execute. The fact is that the same group of people can try to use different methodologies to obtain new results, but if they don’t change the way they think, they will always up in the same place (just using a different path).
Some time ago I learnt that the key to innovate and evolve organizations isn’t technology, nor innovation methodologies, but having leadership and teams with the right mindset that allow the organization to launch a new product, services and also to launch new exponential organizations that will eventually generate the following version of the company, this is what we call Exponential Transformation
The way to avoid the reaction of the immune system against innovation is to transform the people and culture of the organization in a way that facilitates the exponential transformation in the most fluid way possible. As Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”.
More about how to do this in upcoming posts!