Why Innovation Makes us Crazy

September 21, 2010 at 9:40 AM 1 comment

A tale of two organizations.

When I proposed setting up an innovation council in one organization, the COO said what amounted to, “Keep me out of this.”

With the other organization, I helped create and deploy an internal innovation review, to identify the innovation promoters and inhibitors. What happened? The marketing director got upset. HR got bent out of shape. Business development had a cow.

What’s going on here?

The problem is, everyone likes the idea of innovation, but many people are scared to death of the practice. If you are a COO, your job is to create order out of the bureaucratic tangle. If you’re a marketing or HR director, you’re judged by how well you control and manage the aspects you’re hired to handle.

So why did these people freak out? Because when I proposed unleashing a storm of new ideas from both inside and outside the organization, they weren’t controlling the conversation anymore.

Innovation is by nature disruptive. It creates discord, and introduces potential failure all over the place. If your mission is to keep control of things, a drive to innovation appears to threaten your very existence.

The term cognitive dissonance describes the discomfort the brain feels when it’s forced to embrace two conflicting ideas. Innovation fosters chaos, or at least discord and messiness. The managerial imperative is to create order and control. Try to keep both things in your head at once, and it’ll make you crazy.

Needless to say, I’m a fan of unleashing the incredible power of new possibilities, even if it does make us crazy at times.


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mike W.  |  September 22, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    Fear is a serious problem in the marketing world. The brand manager for one of the clients I used to work on once told me. “Our product sold well before I got here. It will sell well after I leave. My job is to not screw things up.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for something as “dangerous” as innovation or creative thinking.

    I always found the trick to overcoming that fear was to include the doubters earlier in the process. It made them champions of the idea, because they felt a sense of ownership. And since they were actively involved in the creation of the idea, they felt less of a need to poke holes.

    If you’re looking for good ways to include clients in a creative thinking or brainstorm session, check out http://brainboltz.com for free step-by-step guides.


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Thompson Morrison

Thompson Morrison

About Thompson

As CEO of FUSE Insight, Thompson Morrison uses powerful new web interviewing technologies to help businesses better align their brand with the needs and aspirations of their customers. Learn more at www.fuseinsight.com


"The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization." -- Tom Peters



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