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Innovation Is Dangerous

Innovation is beyond dangerous, awesome, and wonderful.

Innovation is central to your company, but at the same time, innovation is dangerous.

Innovation can be a threat to a lot of people within your organization. The sole purpose of an innovation group within a larger company should be to disrupt the main business. To replace the main business. Its purpose should be a threat to the main business.

It’s completely understandable for the typical line manager or anyone in any kind of typical corporate role whose day to day job is to churn out product or services and simply make money for the company to see it as a threat.

First, they don’t see the point: Why are we spending money on an innovation group, they’re not producing anything, and they are just a “money sink” There are no profits coming from that group. It’s a waste. Even if they do produce something, such as a prototype or a patent, there is no guarantee that it will make any money for us in the future. It’s a crapshoot, a gamble.

The other day, we were kidding around with one of our clients on patent development. For this client, we ran several workshops which required all day ideation sessions with subject matter experts from across the organization, the goal of which to tap their brains to develop sets of targeted IP, which we could them file for a patent. While we understood that we could deliver tremendous value which could lead to the generation of multiple million or even billion dollar businesses, that’s a future value which was tough to sell. Luckily, the senior leaders of this organization got it, and we could grab a day of time to extract what could possibly be immeasurably immense future value for this firm.

Companies are like people. They are born, they live and sometimes, if they don’t grow and change, they die. Think about an internal innovation group as an incubator, or even more like a “womb” (probably a more apt description – the womb is where a child begins and grows – a child, in the human sense, eventually replacing the parent). The innovation group is the womb which develops the products and services which will eventually replace the parent, once the “parent” (or the current set of products and services) dies (are no longer needed by the market)

Like a child being born, the products and services coming out of the innovation group are not something to be feared, they are something to be welcomed. It’s part of the cycle of life for humans, and it’s not spiritually far from the cycle of life for the business.

Conversely, if your innovation group is not developing ideas and innovations that are disruptive enough to destroy and disrupt the current sets of products and services that you have today, then I would venture to say that your innovation group is doing its job.

Its job is to birth new businesses that destroy your current business. Of course, since that is sometimes thought of as a threat, many forces within the business try to destroy the innovation group. If you destroy your innovation group, where will your new businesses be born?

This is the cycle of life. The new replaces the old. Your business will not die if it becomes the new business which is born out of the innovation group.

You could be in a business that’s been around for two hundred years and you can say to yourself. We are invincible. We have been here forever. And we will be here forever.

No matter what business you’re in today, there are competitors nipping at your heels and digging into your market share. You may feel that those are minor, but all it takes is one major black swan event, or for your customers to reach some tipping point, and overnight, your customers are gone.

The internet’s surplus of choice has killed loyalty. Loyalty is dead and gone. There is no reason your customers can’t go to somebody else who’s providing a better service at a better price.

In the end, your lunch will be eaten. The only question is, by who? Your competitors, or yourself?

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