No Communication, No Innovation

Lance Gibbs
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I came across an article with a familiar theme today, “Innovation.” I have a set of periodicals that I frequent online to keep up to date with various subject matter and innovation as a topic is about as widespread as it gets. This piece was by McKinsey Quarterly entitled ‘The Eight Essentials of Innovation’, and true to most it has its perspective on what needs to happen for companies (larger ones in this case) to be better at innovation.

One of the first things that stuck out was the obvious statement- “It’s no secret: innovation is difficult for well-established companies”. Difficult sure is a kind word to use! So what are the innovating companies doing to be successful? These are companies that are high performers in Product, Process, or Business-Model innovation. After various interviews, workshops and surveys of 2,500 company executives ranging from laggards to real performance leaders, McKinsey found eight key principles that were consistent. They describe them as casual links but nonetheless correlated to innovation success.

You can see these in more detail within the article but they go something like this: Aspire, Choose, Discover, Evolve, Accelerate, Scale, Extend, and Mobilize. One thing that isn’t readily apparent and is also a major blocker to being competent with these notions across the board is ‘Communicate’. I was a little surprised the notion of communication wasn’t more pronounced in the article. Communication, especially in organizations where by its very nature, to innovate requires touching all parts; innovation is truly cross-cutting. There is a process here, a process for the process to re-invent an organization to be more innovating. Frankly, and as it is even said in the article, there exist many cultural factors and fixed routines in large organizations that make achieving innovation akin to splitting an atom with a spatula. People will just naturally gravitate back to their safe place when the going gets tough, it is a normal human reaction.

In my experience communication is critical and until recently I have not seen a vehicle that is really good at policy deployment or goal management, a tool that is just incredibly easy, engaging, and that really preserves the top-down goals without dilution via bias that is inevitable in large organizations. That is until now. The concept and implementation is so simple on the surface and moreover, you can see how this tooling would extend to all kinds of large programs in the distillation, management, and visibility of the real goals from a business-value driven notion.

Joel Trammel gave us a tour recently of Khorus which does exactly what I am talking about, it immediately set off the “oh man, if we had that on x, y, z” kind of hindsight moments you get when remembering how hard it is to ensure the real business goals of a project were appreciated by all who were accountable to deliver. And while this blog post is not trying to promote this tool it ties all the “innovation essentials” together with the communication vehicle to maybe have a better shot of pulling it off. Developing a business as usual competency when it comes to innovation takes a tremendous amount of time and effort! Communication should be explicitly called out as the ninth essential in my opinion.