Most people think innovation is all about ideas, when in fact it is more about delivery, people, and process.
Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, in their book The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge (Harvard Business Review) tell us 10 myths around the ability to continually innovate, execute, and ship ideas:
- Innovation is all about ideas – Ideas are only beginnings. Without the necessary focus, discipline, and resources on execution, nothing happens.
- A great leader never fails at innovation – The inherent conflicts between innovation and ongoing operations are simply too fundamental and too powerful for one person to tackle alone.
- Effective innovation leaders are subversives fighting the system – Effective innovation leaders are not necessarily the biggest risk takers, mavericks, and rebels. The primary virtue of an effective innovation leader is humility.
- Everyone can be an innovator – Ideation is everyone’s job but most team members don’t have the bandwidth or interest to do their existing job, and well as address major innovations.
- Real innovation happens bottoms-up – Innovation initiatives of any appreciable scale require a formal, intentional resource commitment.
- Innovation can be embedded inside an established organization – Some forms of innovation can be imbedded, like continuous product improvement, but discontinuous innovation is basically incompatible with ongoing operations.
- Initiating innovation requires wholesale organizational change – Innovation requires only targeted change. The first principle is to do no harm to existing operations.
- Innovation can only happen in skunk works – Innovation should not be isolated from ongoing operations. Nearly every worthwhile innovation initiative needs to leverage existing assets and capabilities.
- Innovation is unmanageable chaos – Unfortunately, best practices for generating ideas have almost nothing to do with best practices for moving them forward. Innovation must be closely and carefully managed, during the 99% of the journey that is execution.
- Only startups can innovate. Luckily for entrepreneurs, many large companies are convinced that they must leave innovation to startups. Yet research suggests that many of the world’s biggest problems can only be solved by large, established corporations.