When you ask why large companies have a problem building an innovation proficiency, you get back all the usual suspects: “We have silos.” “It’s nobody’s job.” “We’re afraid of failure.” “It’s unpredictable.” And what do all of these things have in common?
The rules of the game used to be pretty simple for large food companies: Make massive quantities of tasty and inexpensive (if not particularly nutritious) food products, create memorable brands around them, and use their market clout to get them within arms’ reach of the everyday consumer. For my mother’s generation, the germ-free, safe, and convenient access to packaged and processed food was a boon.
In the 1830s, an artist and tinkerer, Samuel Morse, directed his curiosity to a question few had considered before. Numerous scientists and inventors across the globe were working on the problem of how to communicate across long distances more quickly.
If you’re tackling a big challenge, try envisioning the simplest possible solution– and don’t let reality get in the way. In the early stages you’d likely be applying the current version of reality. The point of massive change is to change what’s possible.
Twenty years ago, long before we had children, my wife and I decided to spend Valentine’s Day weekend in Tuscany. We were living just a two-hour flight away in London at the time, so leaving on a Friday and returning on a Monday would still mean two days and three nights of rolling hills, wineries, and amazing cuisine.
That historic moment when the perfect team unifies beyond an opportunity, pregnant with possibility, is the essential scene of any great innovation legend: think Jobs and Wozniak when they created Apple, Gates and Allen with Microsoft, or Page and Brin with Google.
As a leader, encouraging your employees to innovate isn’t just a nice thing to do for them. It also delivers tangible value for your business. But what exactly can you do to motivate innovation from within your organization?
What you measure matters. Consider a bridge built in Laufenburg, a town that straddles Germany and Switzerland. As the two halves of the bridge being built came together, it became (embarrassingly) clear that they would not align because they were at different heights.
With technology’s modern pace of change, how can companies (and humans) best adapt? In March, I had the pleasure of leading a workshop with Tracey Zimmerman, President of Robots & Pencils, to answer this very question and offer a few potential solutions for today’s executives.
In 1968, Olympic fans and athletes watched in bemusement as a college sophomore jumped over the high bar backward. Until that day, every gold medal winner, indeed every Olympic athlete, who had competed in the high bar had gone over forward. Dick Fosbury literally turned his back on that tradition … won the Olympics … and forever changed the way the competition is played. Within eight years, 90% of high jumpers were using what came to be called the “Fosbury Flop.” Today, the Fosbury Flop is just the way you do things.