Michael Schrage

Grasping the essence of an innovation culture is astonishingly easy. Simply fill in the blank. Whenever a good idea is proposed, you’ll find the core values of an innovation culture in the words that follow this common phrase: “We can’t do that because…”

Whatever reasons, excuses and evasions people use to explain away why good ideas can’t be implemented is the organization’s innovation culture. Period. We can’t do that because…it’s too expensive, the boss won’t like it, the lawyers won’t let us, it’s not in the budget, we don’t think it will work, the vendor will charge us too much for changing the code, marketing will take it from us if it actually succeeds, the woman championing it is a credit-hog, IT shouldn’t be leading this kind of initiative, it distracts us from our main mission and so on.

Sound familiar? Alas, these sources of resistance are the real “brand attributes” of an organization’s innovation culture. Listen to them, learn them and respect them. They are how organizations truly define innovation. Never fool yourself into thinking you’re just a good idea away from innovative success. Resistance, not ideas, is the most powerful lens for viewing innovation behavior.

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