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On Guard! To Successfully Implement Innovation in Business, You Must Fight Organizational Culture of Fear and Innovation Assassination
The new innovation in business book Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation explains that the main reason even the most promising innovative ideas fail is due to the organizational failure to implement the innovation plans. Why is it that organizations shy away from innovation implementation? As discussed in Chapter 2 of Robert’s Rules of Innovation II, innovation implementation is frequently impeded by an organization’s deep-rooted culture of fear and subsequent innovation assassination.
An introduction to this topic was provided in the previously published blog entitled “Roadblocks to Innovation Implementation: Organizational Culture of Fear and Innovation Assassination.” This blog described many of the reasons why organizations are riddled and ultimately handicapped by a culture of fear and resultant innovation assassination. But this previous blog wasn’t all about doom and gloom, it also presented a potential way to fight back against the culture of fear and innovation assassination and come out on top. Specifically, the blog discussed that one practical step an organization can take to promote risk-taking among their employees is to encourage “creative error.”
In this instant blog, you will learn that encouraging creative error is just one of the ways an organization can fight back (victoriously!) against an organized work culture of fear and innovation assassination. Don’t take the cowardly route and accept the same old, same old; rather, mercilessly fight for change, disrupt the status quo, and stop debilitating innovation assassins in their tracks. Create a trusted company culture of innovation rather than a paralyzing culture of fear. The following strategies are some powerful weapons to keep in your arsenal in the fight against a culture of fear and innovation assassination:
Winning the Battle of Innovation vs. Operations
Within many organizations, there is a dichotomy between innovation and operations. Whereas innovation is all about shaking up the status quo, disrupting the norm, and moving processes forward and into the future; operations thrive when every activity and process is repeatable, predictable, and smooth. So what’s the opposite of predictability and repeatability? Innovation. After all, innovation is about walking that tightrope of uncertainty and the unknown. If you’re a savvy, innovation-minded leader at an organization, you must understand the inherent dichotomy between innovation and operations. Innovation thought leaders and executives must be able to identify (and then defuse) potential innovation assassins within their organization by helping such employees accept (or at the very least, learn to deal with) their aversion to innovation. While it’s no easy feat to defuse these potential assassins (they can be sneaky, as they often work under the pretenses of being constructive; however, they’re always actively looking for flaws in anything new and untested), the battle can be won by steadfastly reinforcing a work culture that accepts and furthermore encourages disruption of the status quo.
Analysis Paralysis: Don’t Let the Quest for Perfectionism Become an Innovation Assassin
While analysis, reasoning, research, care, and intelligence are vital parts of innovation and running an organization, these actions can become a crutch and turn into innovation assassins. In an attempt at perfection, leaders often insist on revisiting over and over again things that have already been determined. This need for perfection causes leaders to have difficultly “hatching the egg” and ultimately causes them to miss significant market opportunities. Perfectionism can assassinate innovation, keeping the best and brightest innovations from being successfully implemented. How can an organization avoid this analysis paralysis? Let the Pixar (an uber-successful and innovative animation film studio responsible for box office hits such as Finding Nemo and Toy Story) example show you the way. At Pixar, they start each new movie idea with rough storyboards and no scripts. “Storyboards are then painstakingly refined until problems are resolved and the movie eventually evolves from “suck to nonsuck,” as the studio head so colorfully puts it.” What makes Pixar’s organizational culture so impressive is the studio’s “lack of cultural self-consciousness around failure. The boss readily admits it: the first iteration is going to suck. They don’t care! But the entire team understands that by remaining less emotionally invested in initial failure, they are freer to put the early failures behind them and work, together, toward the common goal: another fabulous hit, another milestone in cinematic entertainment.”
It is also important to note that one way Pixar cultivates ideation rather than immediate perfection and keeps itself from getting irrevocably lost in the endless quest for perfection is by setting firm release dates for their films. These irreversible deadlines help them avoid analysis paralysis and “hatch the egg” as opposed to endlessly sitting on the egg until it metaphorically rots.
Build Trust within Your Organization
An organization-wide climate of innovation “can only thrive when every aspect of the organization promotes the creativity, engagement, and acceptance of change that is required. This climate must be reinforced in governance, function, metrics, rewards, and more. . . . Trust must be earned. Once it is, the stage is set for increased commitment to a culture of innovation, where failure does not mean dismissal.”  If your team views your innovation drive as this month’s fleeting fad, the naysayers and the cynics will immediately catch on, and innovation assassins, like cockroaches, will once again infiltrate your organization. To ensure true trust within the organization, leadership must create “the processes that reward contributors and open the doors to participations. Once objectives and reward systems are in alignment, conflicts are mitigated and output is optimized. Such a scenario makes it impossible for assassins to work their counterproductive black arts with impunity.”
To learn more about how implement and promote innovation at your company, check out the innovation books Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival and the recently published Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation.