October 9, 2022

You’re not the first person to try to make your company more innovative


My retail consulting friend tells me that at the biggest consumer products company in the world, there is a forty person innovation department that sits on the same floor as the executive management team.

These people are incredibly smart, driven, creative and well paid. They’ve spent the last three years incubating dozens of retail products within the company’s internal innovation lab.

But not a single project has been approved. Not even one.

The company is so big, that if these innovations don’t represent a minimum hundred million dollar market cap, they will never see the light of day. There are simply too many gatekeepers in their way who are going to say no.

Sorry team, your idea is not a big enough opportunity.

This story is quite sad, but it’s not surprising.

Because large organizations demand certainty. They’re designed to be bad at innovation. They’re built to suck at transformational growth.

And so, no matter how many creative people are on that innovation team, big ideas for new products will likely be passed over for simple iterations on proven things. There is simply too much bureaucratic sluggishness, too much need for consensus, too much internal pressure, too high of a need to operate efficiently, and of course, too many shareholders to appease.

The irony, of course, is that if you know exactly what you’re going to build in three years, then the project you’re working on can’t be innovative.

It’s one of those chicken egg conundrums.

All the more reason to show mad love to the organizations who actually pull it off. All those crazy opportunities that might only bear fruit in the long run, if at all.

Sometimes they do work out. But disproportionality, the corporate countryside is littered with the carcasses of smart, creative people who thought they were the first person to try to make their company more innovative.

God bless those pagans.

Do you work on a team that exists to execute, not innovate?