I have a friend who is supposed to be carrying innovation forward in a large corporation. As you read further you’ll understand why I say “supposed to be.” To quote her, “I can’t let the Borg ship know I smuggle.”
Natalie Sweeney is an innovation genius stifled by the very leadership that asks her to be creative, innovative, and generally drive them forward in quantum leaps rather than tiny steps. We’ve been talking about a paper she wrote describing her experience exploring the disconnect between words and action. You all remember my thoughts on this: it’s the walk, not the talk.
Many of you are caught in the disconnect, thinking you want innovative and disruptive action while really hoping nothing much changes and upsets your world. Too bad. The world is more and more disruptive no matter what it does to your comfort level. Will the waves drown you in the undertow or will you ride them to greater success?
Natalie has an interesting way of describing innovators in large corporations: smugglers. Smugglers since they have to be clever and hide in the cracks while carefully advancing new ideas in subtle ways that sneak up on executives rather than smacking them in the face. With patience perhaps the smuggler succeeds in introducing an innovative idea that winds up being accepted and utilized. Perhaps not.
As Smuggler says ” The corporate machine likes conformity, trade secrets, efficiency, and matching results to forecasts. The innovative machine is fueled by non-conformity, breaking the rules, transparency and collaboration, and recognizing that unexpected results are sometimes the most valuable outcomes.”
Where do you fit? In actions, not words. How brave are you at allowing the disruption to occur? Are you willing to live in the future or trying to keep your current comfort forever?
- Create an underground resistance to the “same old same old” because they believe in the need to change to be competitive
- Minimize the fear of the new
- Seed thoughts of hope, in different places, so that when others get together they share in the same vision
- Make new ideas popular, with a smile and encouragement that it’s cool to back the idea
- Suffer the obstinacy of those who aren’t capable of connecting the dots
- Tell the right part of the story to the right person at the right time
- Give unconditionally in an un-giving culture
- Collaborate with those who will collaborate, and team together to advance solutions
- Are willing to be vulnerable and admit when they don’t know the answers
- Are lonely in their view of the world
- Are convinced that what they bring to the table will make a significant impact on the business and for the good of the world.
And the language and actions of the Business Conformist:
- It will never be a priority
- I don’t have resources
- That’s not the way we do things here
- The VP will never approve this
- I struggle to understand why we would do this
- Welcome to (fill in your company name here)”
Be brave. Reach for the treasure.