What's your innovation music?
Some of my favorite analogies are about music. For example, I like to talk about having a "drumbeat" innovation program, something that is regular, constant and steady. What's the tempo that your innovation program works to? Does it sound like a snare drum occasionally and then long periods of silence? Or perhaps a more regular, constant bass drum?
I was thinking about music and how it can be an analogy for your innovation programs as well. There are a number of different kinds of music, which also reflect the various kinds of innovation programs. For example, there is the blues. Blues music is one of my personal favorites, but I don't like blues inspired innovation. That's when the team sits around and moans about what they could do, if only they could throw off the shackles of the existing business, or get more funding, or change the culture. Blues innovation is really about complaining about the existing business, more than doing something to change it.
Many innovation programs are inspired by rock and roll music. That is, they come on stage with a lot of fanfare, are explosive and loud initially, live fast and die young, leaving a mess in their wake. Too often our innovation programs get started quickly but don't have much to say, and live a fast, messy life with little to show for it.
Many people have compared innovation to jazz, and I think that's probably the most apt analogy. Jazz is improvisational and unstructured, and the same song can be somewhat different every time it is played, depending on the situation, the musicians and the setting. However, the basic notes, melody and harmony are consistent. In other words, there is a framework, yet the musicians are encouraged to experiment and improvise within that framework. Sometimes the music is transcendent, sometimes not so much.
What's your innovation music? Does it have a consistent beat? Does it allow for improvisation and does it understand the importance of ebbing and flowing? Will that music have longevity or will it simply burn out and leave an ugly corpse?