Iteration is aiming to endeavour in new efforts that essentially scale or make the same things better.
Innovation is doing new things that deliver new value and/or inspire new behaviours and standards.
Disruption results when new value supersedes previous value, making old services obsolete.It’s not that people don’t want to do the right thing. It’s that they don’t really have the permission to “break the rules.” They’re held to the norms of the organizational culture, which encourages “brainstorming in a box,” where taking risks is out of bounds, cognitive biases serve as a guardrail and hierarchy favour the tenured. But at best, these factors favour incrementalism and thus, can never really lead to true innovation, only iteration.
Average Ideas are a CommodityHierarchies, HR and work systems and processes - and, ultimately, cultures that inherently limit creativity - are by design only capable of producing ideas that are restricted or compromised out of the gate. When leadership confines strategic thinking by holding it to past standards of excellence, ideas and the ecosystem that makes or breaks those ideas tend to follow suit. There’s no natural ability to think outside of the proverbial box because the norms, rules, aspirations, risks and rewards haven’t changed. No matter how trendy or inventive ideas may seem, they are, by default, limited in originality and creativity because they’re building upon a legacy foundation, not reimagining possibilities through a new lens free from fear, biases or restraints. Brainstorming, design thinking, Blue Ocean, whatever the process, no matter how effective they can be, too often lead to results impaired from the onset. They become a byproduct of the “box” that they’re trying to break out of. Without changing the standards, without normalizing and empowering risk-taking and incentivizing curiosity and creativity, we cannot open new doors. Without giving ourselves or those around us the permission or freedom to move in bold, new directions, the designated sandbox for innovation does nothing to reshape or re-imagine an uncharted future. Instead, the schematics and the cultural dynamics of the box directly shape the results produced with in it. They become the box - and we never left, even though we convinced ourselves we were thinking outside of it. This is the result of leadership induced “group think.” It fosters corporate citizens to operate (cower) to the known knowns as guidance, guardrails and governance. As such, they are not incentivized to challenge their own status quo or unlock a fresh or unique perspective to deliver a personal and original approach that explores and surfaces new value. Instead, it places a great deal of pressure on organizations to grow based on current trajectories.
Ideas are a Gateway to New Possibilities - Undermining Them is a Doorway to InsignificanceThere’s an old saying that ideas are a dime a dozen. This refers to the notion that everyone has ideas and that it’s difficult to discover something powerful, meaningful or original to add new value. For those seeking alternative directions for the future, this may very well be the case. But for those who choose not to see new possibilities or hold those back who do, I believe the saying should instead read, “ideas are denied by the dozen.” The truth is that ideas rarely earn executive or mainstream support without encountering significant headwinds and turbulence at almost every level. This means that many promising ideas fail to break through because the resistance is just too great. It also means that the acts of ideating and the hopes of making an impact are not cultivated or celebrated. What’s worse is the anticipation of futility discourage participation and convince people to give up before the potential of their thoughts can be explored. Not trying or quitting is a certain path to defeat or failure. Whereas trying and failing and trying again is the quintessential source of progress.
It’s simply a matter of innovate or be out innovated. Disrupt or be disrupted.Disruption isn’t just a gift given to you by disruptors, or a curse imposed on you by competitors. It can also be self-inflicted and often is. Stagnation and incrementalism can lead to mediocrity, which only accelerates irrelevance and eventual disruption. When your most-valuable customers and employees feel, see, taste, touch or experience innovation and new value, chances are, they’re not going to go backwards. They’re going to choose a new value and meaningful experiences no matter how much momentum you’ve built over the years.