Easy to Be a “NaySayer and a Skeptic”, Right?

Image credit: Dilbert.com

“ …Innovate? You must be kidding. My company does not allow us to ‘just innovate’.”

“I am closely watched here to do what I was hired to do and that is it.”

“We don’t have a culture of innovation here . Inspired? No. This is my job, not my hobby, so of course I am not inspired!”

“It is a myth that companies can be inspiring or innovative… just a myth!”

“If I suggest innovation or execute on innovation, that is considered risk. My company rewards me to sell a lot of our ‘stuff’, and does not reward me for creative thinking and ‘de-focus’ on innovative experimentation….”

Sounds familiar? I can not tell you how many times a day I hear this from the fantastic rank and file in companies, and at the same time, from the execs in the company I hear the following:

“… We are very much looking to evolve our culture into a Culture of Innovation and get our folks to see and suggest what is possible and for our company to become innovative. We don’t know how to do it!…”.

While I am not suggesting that all company execs have innovation as their highest priority, many do. Not for altruistic reasons, rather for reasons of competitive differentiation and survival.

In life, it is always easier to be a skeptic rather than someone who takes risk. After all, skeptics don’t experiment, don’t face failures, avoid confrontation and it is considered to be risk free and safe. Innovation in large companies is completely in the hands of the employees. If employees push the envelope on innovation and the executives support a climate of innovation, that is when great change can come about. When I ask the skeptics if they have ever submitted their ideas and gotten rejected, more often than not the answer is no, as there is no point to attempt, they tell me. Can employees change the culture of the company? Yes! I say they can. If 100,000 highly talented and skilled individuals become more innovative and open with their ideas, and if they are relentless (i.e. don’t give up if the first attempt doesn’t work), the culture will start changing. All have to play in this, all levels need to embrace a culture of disruption/innovation versus a culture of complacency!

It frustrates me to no end. Today Kodak filed for bankruptcy. For 130 years, Kodak was what film was all about. Kodak had and still has very talented employees and ‘thinkers’. When the entire digital revolution was happening, did the execs of Kodak not listen to the input of their talent pool or was it that folks just did not speak up? Seriously, was the United Stats Postal Service sleeping in when the so call the ‘minor internet thing’ happened? Were there not folks that saw digital was going to change things? So, how could Kodak with tens of thousands of employees, or the USPS with over 1M employees completely miss and not innovate? When either the employees or the management or both stop disrupting, innovating and changing is when that business (any business) will go out of business and will become obsolete. The USPS perhaps never thought that it would need to layoff 300,000 people or more. Why didn’t it? Were the same people not using email, signing and scanning docs, faxing and embracing the digital era? Did the Kodak folks not have digital cameras, started using Flickr and had stopped going to CVS to print their photos years ago?

When people (all people) lower the bar, stop disrupting and innovating and become skeptics rather than ‘doers’ is when things fall apart.

What do you think?

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