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Posts tagged with: Innovation

Do you innovate or Discover? We all lead…What kind of leader are you?

If you have the perseverance to read this article, you will be able to identify which category of person you are. Do you have the mentality of innovation or discovery?

A flyover of the differences between the two are simply understood this way… In innovative ventures, there is the all important rule…and it is this…

“FOLLOW ALL THE RULES”

That’s the code of the innovative organization. You follow the rules, restrictions, and systems, because we believe they’re up-to-date, effective, and correct, and that’s what makes us who we are.

In innovative ventures, obedience is its own reward, is required, and is prized.

Innovators…

Webster says that innovation is, “to make changes, or do something in a new way.” In Non-webster terms I would say it this way. Innovation is to take something old and make it useable in a new way. Innovation is reformation. Innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and adapting it, so it works over here in a better way than it worked over there.

Is this a bad thing? No. I’m not opposed to the product that innovation creates, I’m disturbed by what the innovation process does to the innovators.

To innovate something usually requires an attitude of, “needs improvement.” Such an attitude is not necessarily a bad thing. Great leaders have the ability to see what’s not working and make necessary changes. The tricky part is, an attitude of “that needs improvement” is usually preceded by an attitude of “I can do it better.”

It’s very difficult to be humble with an “I can do it better,” attitude, and the frustrating thing is, this naturally breeds arrogance.

There are some common errors that innovators make that create their own demise. The Wall Street Journal recently came up with a list of 5 commons mistakes of Innovators. I will give a brief description of the mistakes and if you want to read the full article you can go to this link and read the details.

http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/05/23/five-common-mistakes-business-leaders-make-about-innovation/?mod=google_news_blog

The 5 common errors of Innovators…And I added a sixth.

1. You believe your own numbers and stats. You insist on “seeing the numbers” too soon and all you have to base your numbers on, is your current statistics, compared to your past.

2. The Success Trap. When a company gets success, it easily can focus on what they think is the thing that made them successful. This focus on “what got us here” causes a crowding out of other options, especially from new people that have joined you. This causes success fragility. In their book “In Search of Excellence,” by Peters and Waterman, the authors tell the fate of 43 companies recently leading the world that got caught in this trap. Today only 5 of those 43 companies even exist.

3. Believe they know the competition. The innovative company tends to make huge mistaken identity gaffs when it comes to identifying the competition. Ask the innovative CEO, “Who is your competition?” They will usually reply with the company that is most like them. The problem with this is that history proves that our greatest competitors usually come from a different angle. i.e. Shipping companies suffered from the steam engine, newspapers are in trouble because of the internet, watch companies suffer because of time being displayed on mobile phones.

4. Believe that because everybody had always done it this way, it is the best way of doing the next “new” thing. When America landed on the moon…Innovation built the rocket, the space suits, space food, etc. But innovation is not what Neil Armstrong used when he put his hand on the door hatch and opened the door to outer space to take his first step onto the moon’s surface. That was sheer discovery…no longer could innovation be used. Talk about a humbling moment.

5. Asking the customers for their opinion. The innovative company is really good at answering the questions that their non-customers never ask. The customers have already bought into the company. Why are we asking them what they want? It actually gets worse…Think about it, the company’s leadership team, that has innovated its idea from an old idea, is now sitting around the table making decisions based off of what has been done to try to keep going to next levels.

6. Stop taking real risks. Most innovative companies are led by people who ultimately are not risk takers. There is a difference between risk taking and calculated risk taking. Innovative Leaders are safe “risk” takers. They only take calculated risks with what they understand. The problem with this lies in the fact that if you are the company in the lead…which means nobody has gone before you on this journey…you can’t calculate what to do, because their has been nothing done before you to calculate. There is nothing to do but risk. Companies in the lead usually end up not being in the lead anymore, because the Leader ran out of ideas to innovate.

Innovation is good. Discovery is Great! Let’s break down discovery…
Webster says that Discovery is, “The act of finding or learning something for the first time.”

My heart beats faster, just after reading that definition. You’ve read the headlines…“Her research led to a number of important discoveries. Discovered a talented musician. Voyage of discovery. It was one of the most important discoveries in the history of _____________!”

Discovery!

Think of Lewis and Clark and their expedition of discovery. It required teamwork. It required admitting that they had no clue what they were going to really encounter. Discovery has a knack of showing all involved that they are not in control. Discovery forces all involved to admit this phrase; “I don’t know!” Therefore, discovery creates humility.

Here’s what is exciting to me about the key difference between innovation and discovery. I wrote earlier that Innovation breeds arrogance. What’s evident about discovery, is that it breeds humility.

An arrogant person thrust into an environment of discovery will be forced to become humble. Humility is born and bred in the middle of uncertainty and danger. Opening yourself or your organization to uncertainty and danger creates humility.

Discoverers have to rely on and trust each other. Which team would you rather work on? Innovation or Discovery? In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins differentiates between Levels 1,2,3,4, & 5 leaders. Collins talks about how level 4 leaders and level 5 leaders can produce very similar results, but a key difference between a level 4 leader and a level 5 leader is humility or lack there of. Level 5 leaders always lead through humility. Level 5 leaders tend to lead companies with the reputation for being Discovery oriented. By the way, if you doubt you are a humble leader, then you are humble.

A good example of creating humility through discovery would be taking an innovative person, as described earlier, and put them in the front of a raft as everybody White Water Rafts down some grade 5 rapids. The typical innovative person will have their arrogance washed away (in this case maybe literally). This setting of discovery forces arrogance to morph into humility.

A quick comparison of Discovery and Innovation. Innovation focuses on the outcome and results. Discovery focuses on the cause and the behavior, while on the journey, no matter the end result.

When it comes to discovery, the most important things are not at the end of the Journey, its what develops and shapes along the journey that makes champions.

Discovery is all about the mentality of facilitating the progress and purpose of others. Discovery is fun along the way because of the thrilling unknown yet to be discovered, and it cannot be about you. It has to be about others, especially your teammates. This kind of work environment is thrilling.
The attitude of discovery has no silos among the team. Innovative environments create hierarchies and power pyramids and is led by bosses that control and measure according to a predetermined end result they will strive to achieve at all costs.

Discovery creates circles of people that honor and trust each other’s strengths. This silo-less discovery team, has a leader without a Boss mentality. The buck must stop somewhere, but the buck stops with the one who is the functional leader. A true leader is one who naturally facilitates the purpose and progress of all the others in the circle.

There is no “Boss Mentality” in the circle of discovery. Why? Because when you are out discovering and the “boss” finds himself in quicksand, the boss mode just got stuck. They are now the beggar, and now that they are helpless, depending on how they treated their “subordinates,” they might be left to die and it all be covered up as a tragic accident!

The Innovative Mentality is focused on the orgs final results and goals.

The Discovery Mentality isn’t focused on the organization as much as it focuses on the environment within the organization.

The Discovery Mentality is full of observation towers, not silos. It discovers from its own customer but is overloaded with interaction with the lives of others outside its own company…a team on discovery!

A company of discovery never polls its own, only interacts. You can’t poll something that is yet to be discovered and so the company of discovery is full of trial and error.

It has a culture of discovery and grace. How many times did Abe Lincoln fail? How many times did Albert Einstein fail? With unknowns around every corner, discovery keeps you and the team humble. It has a great sense of humor and often laughs at itself. It has a mentality of meshing and sharing with others. It has a trust in every individual in the company to utilize and expand on their own personal expertise and strengths. Team and Trust are a must in Discovery Companies. The company of discovery has an attitude of servant-hood and adventure and considers others better than self.
There is a fine line here. Its complex. Discovery companies will innovate because they didn’t have arrogance to breed from. Innovative companies rarely discover because they started with an attitude of arrogance.

My simple question is…which company do you want be a part of? Here’s what is awesome about companies of discovery. They never end. They continue to discover and adapt and discover into the future.

Companies of innovation sooner or later celebrate among themselves how they achieved their final result, they celebrate their first place status, because…they nailed their ultimate goal! Hip Hip Hooray….Hip Hip Hooray. Its at this Hip-Hip-Hooray staff meeting where they unknowingly signed the slow-death certificate. Innovative companies, in first place, have nothing left to innovate on, and these are the companies people talk about when they think back at what used to be amazing.

Innovation routes always have dead ends. Yep, I said it, always. Discovery routes may have cul-de-sacs, but cul-de-sacs and dead ends are very different, and it is measured out in arrogance or humility.

I by no means am an expert in this. I’m simply on a discovery journey.  I am thinking out loud.  I’d enjoy your comments and thoughts.  I’m still discovering what really works for me and its an adventure that is quite thrilling and very humbling.


Innovation vs. Discovery (Part 2 of 2)

The Spirit of Discovery…

I am nearly breathless after trying to describe Innovation in my previous post. I want to now take a look into the spirit of discovery. So, keeping it old School…Webster says that Discovery is, “The act of finding or learning something FOR THE FIRST TIME!

Wow…my heart beats faster, just after reading that definition. You’ve read the headlines…“Her research led to a number of important discoveries. Reporters discovered that the Governor had been unfaithful to his wife. Discovered a talented musician. Voyage of discovery. It was one of the most important discoveries in the history of _____________!”

Discovery! Think of Lewis and Clark and their expedition of discovery. It required teamwork. It required admitting that they had no clue what they were going to really encounter. Discovery has a knack of showing all involved that they are not in control. Discovery forces all involved to admit this phrase; “I don’t know!” Therefore, discovery creates humility.

Here’s what is exciting to me about the key difference between innovation and discovery. I wrote earlier that Innovation breeds arrogance…meaning you have to have some arrogance to breed more arrogance. What’s thrilling about discovery is that it creates humility. Somebody can have total arrogance and they can be put in the environment of “discovery” and they will be forced to be humble. Humility is born in the middle of uncertainty and danger. Opening yourself or your organization to uncertainty and danger creates humility. Innovators have to do what they’re told and use a previous example to do it. Innovation companies rely heavily on their policy manuals. Policy and policing go hand in hand and are abundant in innovator type companies. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is a deep need for policy. The attitude behind the policy is where innovative companies are different from companies of discovery. It’s the difference between arrogance and humility. Discoverers have to rely on and trust each other. Which team would you rather work on? Don’t forget that Innovation and Discovery are both good. I just personally am bent towards discovery and that is the bias you are reading in this article. An example is from the book of “Good to Great” written by author Jim Collins. In his book Collins differentiates between Levels 1,2,3,4, and 5 leaders. Jim collins talks about how level 4 leaders and level 5 leaders can produce very similar results, but a key difference between a level 4 leader and a level 5 leader is humility or lack there of. Level 5 leaders always lead through humility. Level 5 leaders tend to lead companies with the reputation for being Discovery oriented. Now a side note for those looking for some loop holes here. There are many companies known for being a company of discovery and their leaders seem to be arrogant. Maybe a fair example would be Steve Jobs and Apple Inc. Steve Jobs has been accused of being arrogant. However I think there are some fine differences between arrogance, confidence or ego. Many times all of those traits are just written off as arrogant.

A good example of creating humility through discovery would be taking a controlling “type A” person that struggles with arrogance and put him in the front of the raft as you White Water Raft down some serious rapids. This control type person and his arrogance washes away (in this case maybe literally washes away) into humility as everybody else in the raft hears him scream like a girl child who saw a mouse run across the room. HUMILITY SERVED!

That is what I love about discovery. It is teachable.

Discovery is the mentality that focuses only on the cause…even invests fully in the cause regardless of the effect or the end result. I said earlier that I am a pastor. So if I study the life of Jesus I can see that He was a man who even knew the end result or the effect of His life. He was going to be badly beaten, and murdered. Yet he stayed with the cause. By cause, I mean the foundation, the reason, the why, the origin instead of focusing on trying to control the end result, the effect, the outcome. In the people business, like ministry, the outcome/result/effect is God’s job, not mine. My job is to focus on the cause regardless of the effect or result. In the Lewis and Clark discovery expeditions they couldn’t control any effects or results. Every step could have been their end. They had to simply live in the moment and keep discovering what was new around every corner, and river and crevice and tree. The end result for them took care of itself…they desperately needed to stay faithful to the cause and let the effect be just that…the result of their faithfulness and determination to humbly keep in discovery mode.

Innovation focuses on the outcome and effects…the end result. Discovery focuses on the cause…the behavior, while on the journey, no matter the end result. Innovation measures results. Discovery measures faithfulness to the cause. One is motivated by control and one is motivated by love for the cause. One is living for the future and one is living in the moment and letting the future be in the hands of God. It’s a scary thing to leave the results in the hands of God. I think leaving things in the hands of God is the safest risk you could ever take. In the Big Picture of life…the most important things are not at the end of the Journey, its what develops and shapes along the journey that makes champions…and…usually creates the kind of champions that ultimately produced greater results than the innovator. If a climber of Mount Everest only focuses on the end result of attaining the top of the mountain…then what happens once that result is achieved. (Many Everest Climbers have witnessed people who only focused on the end result…and forgot to focus on their next step, resulting in a fall to their death.) Also, once the climbers of Mt. Everest achieve the end result of getting to the top of the Mountain, those who were too focused on the result, many struggle with depression soon after. The Journey…the cause…that’s where great things happen. The end result…tends to be the end.

Discovery is all about the mentality of facilitating the purpose and progress of others. Discovery is fun along the way because of the thrilling unknown yet to be discovered, but it is not about you. It has to be about others. Discovery mixed with selfishness kills people. Discovery, in its purest form, is about team and trust, and reliance on the critical factor that everybody on the team has each other’s interests above their own interests, as they cut a path towards a new discovery.

Discovery admits that the questions never change…but the answers do. So a person of discovery never has the answers for tomorrow and only has his/her own same questions to keep asking.
Jesus taught that people shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, for today has enough problems of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

People with the Spirit of Discovery keep on asking…“How should I treat this person right here right now?” How should I behave as I proceed into this business meeting?” “How can I focus my attitude to deal with this next situation that will impact my company for good?” “In this current conflict, how can I respond to this person to show that I do care about them, even if our conflict results in separation?” “Should I raise my voice and demand accountability for bad behavior with this team I’m about to confront?”
Discovery lives for the cause regardless of the effects/results.

Discovery is focusing on the cause and not the effect…the journey, not the results. It is focusing on the attitude not the end result. Innovation forces an outcome and controls and measures over and over and over. Discovery trusts and cares in the moment and leaves the outcome up to God. Discovery measures, but it measures very different things when compared to an innovator. Sound like a bad business idea? Sound like a plan for the can? If you answered yes to those two questions, you just began to die and your business too. This is the future business model. This is the business model of those that are speeding past you in the success lane of your business as you still are driving in the drive lane of yesterday.

Hopefully you are thinking right now, “I want to be a leader of Discovery!”

The attitude of discovery has no silos. There is a removal of walls that separate people. Innovation creates hierarchies and power pyramids and is led by bosses that control and measure according to a predetermined end result they will strive to achieve at all costs. Bosses and leaders are very different. (Another blog- another time.) Discovery creates circles full of people that honor and trust each other’s strengths. This silo-less circle of discovery team, has a leader without a Boss mentality. Oh, don’t mistake me, the buck must stop somewhere, but the buck stops with the one who is the true leader. A true leader is one who naturally facilitates the purpose and progress of all the others in the circle.

There is no “Boss” in the circle of discovery. Why? Because when you are out discovering and the “boss” finds himself in Quick Sand and about to die, his boss mode just dissipated. He is now the beggar, and now that he is helpless and about to die…depending on how he treated his “underlings,” he might just be left to die and it all be covered up as a tragic accident! I don’t want to be a boss who has everybody kissing my “Assets” out of fear. I want to be a leader who discovers with my team while keeping other people’s best interests ahead of my own. That’s discovery. That’s a level 5 leader.

The spirit of discovery isn’t focused on the organization; its focus is on the environment within the organization. The organization is an end result of a cause that people live for. The end result/organization eventually dies if the end results are all you are pursuing. If the team keeps focus on the cause, and the organization’s environment, then the organization as an end result just grows. Focus on the cause not the effect! Focus on the cause with great purpose and the end result just happens. An end result that happens out of fear, control and force, is not an end result that gets celebrated, except for a bonus check at the end of the year. Who isn’t motivated by a bonus check? The entire next generation of leaders…that’s who.

A discovery type leader rarely, if ever, looks into its own field type for how to do it better. Innovative leaders are so narrowly focused that it rarely, if ever, discovers. However…a company that carries the spirit of discovery can also innovate because it was founded off of discovery. The instant the company of discovery quits the spirit of discovery; its success will die with its last innovation. This company knows its true competition is something out there yet to be discovered and its worst competition is purely itself. I love the slogan on Michael Jordan’s web page. “The only man who could stop Michael Jordan….Is Michael Jordan!” That is true of your company, your church, your family and your self. When a company of discovery finally feels like it has arrived and has the best idea, it has now transformed into a company of innovation and has signed its own eventual death certificate.

Think about it. A company, or in my pastoral sense, a church that begins to decline and fail has only itself to blame. In the church world, the phrase “sheep stealing” is used frequently when people leave one church to attend a different church. If you think about it, well fed sheep don’t stray and most definitely are hard to steal. If your business or your church is losing sheep, then something’s wrong with the quality of your grass. Great churches and great businesses grow great grass and hungry sheep always want to eat.

The company of discovery is full of observation towers instead of silos. It studies and learns (discovery) from its own customer but is full of interaction and actually getting in the life of others outside its own company. A company of discovery never polls its own, only interacts. You can’t poll something that is yet to be discovered and so the company of discovery is full of trial and error. It has a culture of discovery and grace. How many times did Abe Lincoln fail? How many times did Albert Einstein fail? With unknowns around every corner, discovery keeps you and the team humble. It has a great sense of humor and often laughs at itself. It has a mentality of meshing and sharing with others. It has a trust in every individual in the company to utilize and expand on their own personal expertise and strengths. Team and Trust are a must in Discovery Companies. The company of discovery has an attitude of servant-hood and adventure and considers others better than self. There is a fine line here. Its complex. Discovery companies can innovate because they didn’t have arrogance to breed from. Innovative companies rarely discover because they started with an attitude of arrogance. Please understand. I didn’t say one way one is right and one is wrong. It is obvious that I have a bias towards the discovery company and actually carry a bit of displeasure towards companies of innovation. That’s my problem, that I will have to deal with. My simple question is…which company do you want be a part of? Here’s what is awesome about companies of discovery. They never end. They continue to discover and adapt and evolve into the future. The only thing that ends is your ability to work in that company because your age just prevents you from it. Companies of innovation sooner or later celebrate among themselves how they achieved their final result…they nailed their ultimate goal! Hip Hip Hooray….Hip Hip Hooray. Then what? These are the companies people talk about when they think back at what used to be amazing. They usually last one life time. Again…not bad, not wrong. Just not where I personally want to leave a mark on history.

So which one of these two is the company you work in or lead?

Innovative? Then you have good news…you can develop your spirit of discovery and be remarkable. Its time to get your team together and go where no man has gone before. Its scary! It creates humility. Are you up to it?

Discovery? Then stand guard, for it is very easy to start coasting…which can only happen on a downward slope. The instant you think you have arrived, you have now transformed into innovation, but that is okay, because you can make up your mind to go discover some more!

I hope you will discover who you are.
I hope you will discover what could change the world and make it better.
I hope you will discover the freedom of working humbly with a team.
I hope you will discover that the greatest joy in life is helping others achieve their dreams and desires.
When you discover that, you will be living your own dream.
The journey will be unbelievable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and push backs. I by no means am an expert in this. I am simply thinking out loud. I like to think it all makes sense, but I’m sure there are gaps. I’m still discovering what really works for me and its an adventure that is quite thrilling and very humbling.

Go Discover!


Innovation vs. Discovery (Part 1 of 2)


Are you a person of INNOVATION or a person of DISCOVERY?
They are similar yet very different.

I have been in multiple meetings and have been asking some questions about people’s perceptions of me and of our whole organization. I have had much discussion in the past year of my life about perceptions. People’s perceptions are people’s reality. People’s reality tends to be their truth. People’s first impression of you might be false, but it will be their truth about you. How people perceive you is more crucial than you might like to admit. What are you doing about how people perceive you? How do people perceive you? I want to talk about two popular kinds of American leadership styles that influence how people perceive us. The two styles I want to talk about are the all too famous spirit of Innovation style and compare it to the a style I am in favor of, the spirit of Discovery style.

Please understand that innovation and discovery are strengths and each is important and good. Innovation and Discovery are strengths and attitudes that have a place in society. I am in the people influencing business (Aren’t we all in the people influencing business?”) So I am confident that the spirit of discovery creates more success than the spirit of innovation. This article is long and I hope you can journey with me through this thought process. If, I believe that Discovery is more success oriented than innovation, you must know by now that this article will take a leaning towards being a bit critical towards innovation. If you differ with me in this I would be glad to hear your comments.

In order for you to answer the question as to whether or not you are bent more for innovation or discovery you will have to understand each concept well. I am no expert on the two, but I have taken the time to thoroughly think and study these topics and I hope you can learn from my gleanings.

The Spirit of Innovation
Let’s start by going “Old School” and see what Webster says innovation is. I had to blow the dust off the top of my dictionary sitting on my dusty bookshelf. The dust reminded me to be deeply thankful for the internet. Webster says that innovation is, “to make changes, or do something in a new way.” In Non-webster terms I would say it this way. Innovation is to take something old and make it useable in a new way. Innovation is reformation. Innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here
.
Innovation is doing something old in a new way. Innovation is a new and improved way. So far, innovation sounds like a great style. I’m not opposed to the product that innovation creates, I’m nervous about what the spirit of innovation actually does to the innovators. When a group of people innovate something, they become very loyal to the newly innovated product. (By product I mean anything they created. It could be a philosophy, it could be a method of leadership, it could be a brand, or it could be an actual usable product.) This loyalty to the newly innovated product causes the innovator to love what they have innovated. Why? Because they innovated it. It is theirs. They understand it, they helped build it. They sat in the room as the innovation was being argued about. THEY argued about it. It makes sense to them and to the organization that innovated. To the people of the organization, this innovation doesn’t do anything wrong. What it does is the best it could do under the circumstances. Someone who knew what you know would make the very same decision, because under the same circumstances it was the only/best option. So they innovated and they love their newly innovated product.

So…of course, the world should buy from them or commit to them and their product. They innovated, which makes them think they did it better. If they think they did it better they also think they DO it better. They innovated. Innovation is good…Right? That’s a brief explanation of innovation. In short, innovation is to take something old and reform it into something, in your opinion, that is better.

There is a dire side to innovation. Once innovation actually happens, the innovator naturally thinks their innovation is exceptional. It’s human nature to think this way. The innovator loves their new innovation. Once they believe in it, as exceptional, it is almost impossible to innovate again. Why? Because innovation is making something work better. For an innovator to re-innovate is to admit that whatever they first innovated is now needing improvement. Remember, to innovate is to take something and make it better.

When an innovator has total buy-in towards their innovation and it begins to not be as successful as they wished, they will naturally say, “not fair.” No innovator ever wants to admit that their innovation is no longer working. When they believe their innovation is good they will no longer innovate because it’s too hard on the ego. No innovator wants to admit that their innovation needs innovated.

Another problem with innovation is that anything innovated is really not new. It has a façade of new. But it’s not new. Grocery Store shelves are labeled with bright new advertising screaming their message “new and improved.” However, in reality, it’s the same old product with a small tweak, but is marketed as innovated/new. Is it really new?

To innovate something is to think with an attitude of, “needs improvement.” Such an attitude is not necessarily a bad thing. Great leaders have the ability to see what’s not working and so whatever is necessary to make it work. What I’m focusing on as I compare the spirit of innovation to the spirit of discovery, is attitude and motive. An attitude of “that needs improvement” is usually preceded by an attitude of “I can do it better.” It’s very difficult to have an “I can do it better attitude” and not be perceived as arrogant.
The person who think they can do something better naturally must criticize whatever they they think should be better. It’s nearly impossible to do this without being perceived as arrogant. The innovator may not actually be arrogant, but is perceived as arrogant. Remember earlier when I said, “People’s perception is their reality and truth.” So, the reality is that the spirit of innovation breeds arrogance. Innovation doesn’t lead to arrogance. I said, breeds arrogance. To breed arrogance you need arrogance to start with. Innovation breeds arrogance. Arrogance innovates and breeds more arrogance. I can’t help but think back to the old movie “Gremlins” and how the arrogant ones just kept breeding. “Just add water!” There are some common errors that innovators make that create their own demise. The Wall Street Journal recently came up with a list of 5 commons mistakes of Innovators. I will give a brief description of the mistakes and if you want to read the full article you can go to HYPERLINK “http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/05/23/five-common-mistakes-business-leaders-make-about-innovation/?mod=google_news_blog” http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/05/23/five-common-mistakes-business-leaders-make-about-innovation/?mod=google_news_blog

The five common errors of Innovators…And I added a number 6.
1. You believe your own numbers. You insist on “seeing the numbers” too soon and all you have to base your numbers, is your past statistics. Remember that innovation is really not creating something new it is simply taking something old and making something that you think is better. Having a mentality that numbers are the most important thing creates a leadership mindset that RESULTS matter most. I said earlier that I am in the people influencing business. To be more specific, I am a Christian Pastor. Anytime in the Bible that Men/People focused on the results is when that man caused great damage. Innovation plays this dangerous game because it tends to focus too much on results instead of the more important focus of CAUSE which I will share in the discovery section.
2. The Success Trap. When a company gets financial success because it got very good at what it does, it begins to focus on the thing that made it successful. This focus on “what got us here” causes a crowding out of other options and points of view. This might bring immediate further success, but in our culture of fast change, it is only a matter of time before the innovative company gets trapped in the one thing they do so well. Getting trapped also means narrowly focusing on that one thing usually ending in all the eggs getting put in one basket. This causes success fragility. This usually happens to very large successful companies and their death is a frustratingly slow and agonizing death. I believe in our culture of fast pace and change…the slow death isn’t even reality. The company that gets stuck in the success trap has a vividly fast way of becoming obsolete. In fact, in his book “In Search of Excellence,” by Peters and Waterman, the authors tell the fate of 43 companies recently leading the world that got caught in this trap. Today only 5 of those 43 companies even exist.
3. Believe they know the competition. The innovative company makes a huge mistaken identity gaff when it comes to identifying the competition. Ask your innovative companies CEO, “Who is your competition?” They will usually reply with the company that is most like them. The problem with this is that history proves that our greatest competitors usually come from a different angle. i.e. Shipping companies suffered from the steam engine, newspapers are in trouble because of the internet, watch companies suffer because of time being displayed on mobile phones. In my opinion, Innovative companies get so caught up in the love of themselves that their greatest competitor is also their greatest enemy…themselves! Most wives know this of their husbands. A husband’s greatest enemy is usually himself.
4. Believe that because everybody had always done it this way, it is the best way of doing the next “new” thing. This is my greatest problem with innovative companies. They think they are on to something “new” but in reality the definition of innovation is making something new from something old. So it’s not really new, right? It’s just innovated and feels new. This is a huge problem for companies who are trying to innovate into uncharted territory. I have been in the leadership of a very successful church. In fact, this church has seen so much success that for them to go to new levels means they have no examples to follow in this American Culture. There is nothing to innovate on. If they think innovating is going to take them to the next level, they are never going to get to the next level. For instance, when America landed on the moon. Innovation built the rocket, the space suits, space food, etc. But innovation is not what Neil Armstrong could build off of when he put his hand on the door hatch and opened the door to outer space and took his first step onto the moon’s surface. That was sheer discovery. You can’t innovate that. It had never been done before! When your company is leading the way, and you choose to move forward through innovation, then you have just signed your contract that says you are guaranteed to no longer be in first place. Maybe even just signed your death certificate. Your company, if its leading the way, has to be in the Discovery mentality to go to the next level because there is nothing to innovate off of.
5. Asking the customers for their opinions. The innovative company is really good at answering the questions that their non-customers are NOT asking. The customers have already bought into the company. Why are we asking them what they want? It actually gets worse…Think about it, the company’s leadership team, that has innovated its idea from an old idea, is now sitting around the table making decisions based off of what has been done to try to keep going to next level. This company starts making decisions based off of keeping the already reached customers happy while there are new and unreached people waiting to be “Discovered!” This is innovation’s greatest downfall. Once you innovate something, your own human nature won’t let you innovate anymore because the team would have to admit that their innovated idea “used” to be a good innovation. Meaning its failing now. An innovative company never wants to admit that its innovated product no longer works. To not admit failure is pride and arrogance. “Pride comes before the fall.” Bottom line…Innovation works really hard to appear right, regardless of the actual results that are taking place. It is fascinating to me that innovation is all focused on results, but even when the results are headed in the downward trajectory, the innovator would rather believe the lie that things are okay instead of admit that the innovation they created no longer is working. “Every bad idea, used to be a good idea!” Innovation…it’s a vicious cycle.
6. Stop taking ultimate risks. This sixth point is my opinion. Most innovative companies are led by people who ultimately ARE NOT what could be defined as risk takers. There is a difference between risk taking and calculated risks. Innovative Leaders are “safe risk takers.” They only take calculated risks with what they understand. The problem with this lies in the fact that if you are the company in the lead…which means nobody has gone before you on this journey…you can’t calculate what to do, because their has been nothing done to calculate. There is nothing to do but risk. Companies in the lead usually end up not being in the lead anymore, because the Leader ran out of ideas to innovate from. The company that is top dog begins to focus on how much there is to lose and they begin to settle in on their success and begin to “play it safe.” Its like a Pro football game. The game is close. The winning team has the ball and its just the beginning of the 4th quarter. The offensive coordinator decides to try to protect the lead and thus changes the game plan from, ‘playing to win’ to ‘playing not to lose.’ What usually happens when that game plan is employed? Its called an upset. The team that was in the lead should not have started playing not to lose. They should have kept playing to win. A company that is leading the world in their field has nothing to innovate anymore, and pride to often prevents this leading company from innovating on itself. This company now is headed into uncharted territory and can no longer innovate. This company can only open themselves up to new learning experiences that will make them feel uncertain at best and incompetent at worst. This is hard for an innovative company to shift into, but it can be done. It usually takes the company leader becoming a total risk taker. Due to the fact that there is nothing to innovate on, the leader must now become like Neil Armstrong and go into the uncharted new! This is the mentality of DISCOVERY, and my next blog post will be about that very issue!