In the CEO's shoes
If I am a CEO of a large corporation under attack by US competitors, foreign competitors and startups, I want to protect my position. I can do that by: 1) creating really interesting new stuff or 2) building walls to protect what I've already accomplished. The best way to create new stuff is to innovate. The best way to protect what I've got is to drive others out of the market or find other defensive positions.
Innovation is interesting, but very risky. Wall Street demands that I at least seem interested in innovation, so I will talk about it quite a bit. However, innovation requires significant investment and change, and my organization isn't too good at either. If we spend a good deal of time innovating, we may take our "eye off the ball" with our existing products and services and anger our customers. Also, innovation requires a lot of risk - what if we make some big investments and they miss the mark?
Defending an existing position is easier and safer (it appears). We'll add to the marketing budget to tell people why our widget is better than the other widget. We'll seek to cut costs by outsourcing production. We'll implement lots of continuous improvement processes to squeeze out costs. We'll lobby Congress to raise import restrictions and demand greater equity from overseas competitors. After all, if we put in place a cost reduction program, and can just hold on to existing market share and margins, profits will increase.
If we invest in an innovation initiative, we'll either succeed or fail. Success is problematic - the markets are uncertain, risks are high. What if we enter the market too early or too late? A small mistake in innovation can cost us dearly. However, even a big miss on cost cutting still results in some lower costs, most likely without a huge investment.
So, our strategy will be: externally, talk about innovation and its importance to the firm. Point out past successes that we can identify as innovation. Indicate vague plans for new products and services that are in the pipeline. Perhaps even name an innovation leader. Internally, work like crazy to outsource, cut costs, eliminate risks, become more "lean". For the internal staff, we'll implement Six Sigma and call it "innovation". After a year or so the focus on innovation on Wall Street will go the same way as SarBox or some other management fad, and we'll be OK.
Now, if only someone could help me get this @#$ iPod to work with Google...