MOST ORGANIZATIONS are as slow today as five years ago in being able to act on ideas and deliver new products to the marketplace, despite a growing demand for innovative solutions. Why is this still the case? I use four stalwart firms – Apple, P&G, Whirlpool, & Nike – as models for organizations that get it right in being able to continually adopt change and innovate. Why just yesterday Apple announced the release of its iPhone 6 and 6+ products; each year about this time (September) Apple is able to act on new ideas and produce a new product that delivers new value to its global base of consumers, driving billions of dollars of new revenue.
GE is another great example of a company that’s able to continuously innovate. According to Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, “business leaders have no choices here. Nobody is allowed not to play. Nobody can say, ‘I’m going to sit this one out.’ That’s the way you drive change.” As for my work related experiences, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this same way but then looked around to see my work colleagues trying to rationalize “sitting it out” for various reasons. They simply were not committed to doing something different – sitting it out and waiting for the next CEO/COO was thought to be a “safer” route. I argue that the impediments to innovation are NOT due to a lack of good ideas – that’s the easy part – but rather bureaucratic inertia. By this I mean that NOT enough leaders are committed to new ways / change, NOT bought into innovation as a job priority, and NOT convinced on the need for continuous marketplace performance through new product offerings of value to the customer.
Similar to what Apple, P&G, Whirlpool, & Nike does, it’s time to start holding business leaders and senior staff accountable for actively supporting new ways/products as a core part of their measurable performance. It is NOT OK to sit it out and focus 100% effort on maintaining the status quo, at least not it today’s competitive market. Innovation starts at the top of the organization, tied to a realistic vision that stretches organizational abilities, and enabled through effective leadership and strategy to generate competitive advantage through new product innovation.