Thursday, February 15, 2007

The innovation fad is over

I was reading Endless Innovation, the new blog by Dominic Basulto, who has also been instrumental at Business Innovation Insider. A post in his blog about the end of innovation caught my eye. Bruce Nussbaum at Business Week declares that there's a backlash against innovation. Well, that's sort of misquoting Nussbaum. This is just the continuation of a cycle we've seen before. This is also good news.

Every important management trend got started this way. I was working with customer relationship management software before people heard of Tom Siebel. At first, CRM was the complete ticket to solve your customer management woes - it would snap sales people into line, improve sales pipelines and "manage" customers more effectively. Except that CRM didn't really do those things out of the gate. It required a change in culture and in management thinking before the software and processes could make a big change. So, after a few years, Gartner was famous for a report that over 50% of all CRM implementations failed. In any management trend, once a leading firm has identified the end of the trend, you can assume good things will happen next, since the people who were along for the ride will get off, and the people who are in it for the long run will get started.

Remember Sarbanes-Oxley? SarbOx? Some Socks? A few years ago I knew a number of people racing to start new companies to take advantage of the new rules. Sarbox was going to change corporate accounting and there was constant media coverage. What have you heard or read about Sarbox lately? The media decided that Sarbox had run its course. Of course there are many firms actively complying and we hopefully have better financial reports as an outcome. Once the hoopla died down, the real work began.

I think this is true for innovation as well. As many writers have pointed out, Ford is not innovative because they adopt a tagline with the word "innovation" in it, and they are not innovative because the past CEO or the current CEO talk incessantly about innovation. Ford - or any other organization - becomes and remains innovative when the people who actually do the work in the organization are motivated, led and compensated to be innovative, and when the culture and processes enable and support innovation. Those things take time and happen after all the fanfare is over.

If you are reading about the end of the innovation fad, it means that the read work is just beginning.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 4:57 AM

43 Comments:

Anonymous Dominic Basulto said...

I think you're right -- innovation is more than just a trend. Over at the Endless Innovation blog, I've linked to your post and written that companies need "Bold Moves, Not Bold Talk."

http://endlessinnovation.typepad.com/endless_innovation/2007/02/bold_moves_not_.html

7:33 AM  
Blogger Dennis McDonald said...

Agreed, the real work is just beginning. But people now realize that innovation is something that management needs to pay attention to. In some ways what's happening to innovation management within the enterprise is happening to enterprise adoption of social media as well, which I blogged about after reading your own stuff (http://www.ddmcd.com/enterprise.html).

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