The Hidden Price for Innovation

In a world that seems to be a whirlpool of daily changes in everything for everybody (not all beneficial, mind you!) there is a word, a concept, and a slogan at the same time that shines through like an all-mighty beacon of everybody’s hope for the better: Innovation.

The reasons for this global fascination may be the growing need for differentiation in a tough competitive environment, and/or the push coming from new generations that push for their blooming achievements, and/or the huge problems that are still lingering for ages (environment, energy, diseases, education, human rights, development gaps, population growth and ageing, and many others that plague the entire planet and its outlook).

Innovation now attracts numerous media reports, inspiring political declarations of support, and sources of funds presumably ready to be invested along the daring voyage to something new and obviously profitable.  However beyond the huff and puff surrounding the awesomeness of innovation there is a need for people, bright people who can design and then make changes happen in order to have the impact everybody daydreams about.

The Innovators.

Some would see them as copycats of Wozniak or Gates or Zuckerberg working in anonymity and precarious conditions to give birth to brilliant ideas that would some day revolutionize our existence.  Others would envisage teams of Einsteins united by huge IQs researching all day long key bits of knowledge in well equipped laboratories provided and paid for by big organizations.

Organizations that are not lucky or rich to attract/hire geniuses must find inside their ranks people that could/should be nurtured, educated, and stimulated to think and deliver precious nuggets of innovation.  And so the arduous quest for valuable innovators is afoot.

The fine and long-term selection of people able and willing to bring in innovation must be done by people in charge, able and willing to welcome and incorporate innovation into their realm.

The Managers.

The march to innovation presses imperative demands on the time, energy, and commitment of the managers or owners.  Innovation requires talking openly with (not to) employees of all ranks and specialties.  Innovators need to be guaranteed the comfort, the security, and the reward to speak their mind.  Innovation may imply challenging or even overturning current business layout and implicit rules. Innovation asks from decision makers unconditional flexibility, an increased risk appetite and the confidence to let go of professional or personal ego.  All the above are mandatory conditions for managers to open up and back up risky and sometimes failed attempts to change the good old rules that used to serve them so well.

In-house innovation comes at a stiff price to be paid by decision makers – on professional and personal level.  Bruised ego, loss of control, and possible failures with impact on their own fate/job are implicit components of the expected investments in innovation programs. Often this price is deemed unacceptable by some management teams and so innovation is softly smothered no matter what their PR may loudly and proudly declare.