Monday, April 23, 2012

The Wizard of Innovation

I've been thinking a lot about how the Wizard of Oz reflects so much about innovation.  Not the story per se, but the setting and the characters and how they represent attributes or characteristics innovators must possess.

Take, for example, Dorothy's three key companions - the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man.  These three each personify a key trait that innovators must possess.  The Scarecrow is looking for a brain.  From an innovation perspective, we'll translate this as "insight" - the ability know what customer needs are unfolding and the willingness to learn new methods and approaches.  The Cowardly Lion is looking for courage.  Innovators must be courageous, to stand up to the challenges that they will face when trying to innovate, which bucks the business as usual mentality.  The Tin Man was looking for a heart.  Innovators need a big heart - a heart full of courage and commitment, but also a heart full of empathy.  Anyone can dream up new ideas, but its only when you have empathy for the customer that you discover important needs. All of the characters who journey with Dorothy are capable of doing what they need to do, and discover their abilities in the journey.  This is often true with innovators - people who don't think they are "creative" or who don't have the right status are often great innovators if they allow themselves to be.

Or, consider the Wizard, the man behind the curtain.  The wizard is never presented until the very end, and is considered a very powerful force.  When finally unmasked, he turns out to be much less powerful than he appeared.  In the innovator's world, the Wizard correlates to the corporate culture.  The culture is a seemingly powerful force, ephemeral but always present.  But when a powerful innovator confronts a corporate culture with the right backing and the right ideas, the culture can be tamed.

Dorothy represents another facet of the innovator must possess - determination and focus.  No matter what happens, Dorothy seeks to return home.  She has a clear goal and pursues it regardless of the obstacles, regardless of the circumstances.  She confronts all of these forces aligned against her, including the Wicked Witch, who personifies all of the nay-sayers, the status quoers, the let's leave well enough alone types.  These people constantly confront an innovator, seeking to distract, delay and derail an innovation effort because they want to protect their products, their status or the existing status quo.  No matter the obstacle, no matter how compelling Oz may seem, Dorothy stays true to her goals and convictions.  So too must innovators have a clear goal and stay true to their convictions.

Innovators need bold ideas and clear thinking that come from an engaged brain, and bold actions and confidence, as well as empathy, that come from a big heart.  They need courage to confront all that faces them in an existing business as usual culture.  They need determination to face the faceless but seemingly powerful corporate culture and the slings and arrows thrown by the people who don't want change or are afraid of change.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:48 AM


Blogger mike said...

This is a really interesting post! I think it is interesting to analyse the initiator vs innovator concept. I use a virtual offices provider to initiate conversation with providers whilst I innovate the product and take care f the business.

4:43 AM  

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