Why Innovation Fails in Corporations: culture is the difference between a fad and success

Innovation initiatives often crash and burn. Here's why.

Chances are you’ve been in an organisation where a new initiative has been greeted with great fanfare – innovation, 360-degree feedback, agile, lean, etc – only to crash and burn, disappearing a while later and dismissed as a management fad.

Management may have the right goal in mind, but the greatest misunderstanding is that initiatives such as innovation is just about implementing tools and training sessions. For it to be truly successful, they are looking at cultural change. Culture and tools are a pair package: one cannot live without the other.

Culture and tools come as a package. You can't
separate them.
Toyota for example, is set up as an innovative company. Very few companies are able to replicate the Toyota Production System because they treat it as a series of tools to pick and choose from. The reason why Toyota can drive such high levels of employee led continuous improvement is because of the culture: from the very top down, people are empowered to innovate with the freedom to fail.

Other innovative companies share similar themes. Online giant Amazon focuses on hiring those with a ‘builder’ mindset and makes it easy for their people to spin up ‘2 pizza teams’ - small, cross-functional teams to experiment with new ideas, with an explicit understanding that failure is an option. If it then doesn’t work in Amazon land, they then reassess whether it needs to be pivoted, or killed.

You’re either all-in or all-out, and just implementing tools and calling it ‘innovation’ is a recipe for failure, dooming it as a management-fad. Culture is the key nourishment that will sustain innovation. If an organisation is genuine in becoming innovation-driven, it needs to be re-written into a company’s DNA.



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K Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: Why Innovation Fails in Corporations: culture is the difference between a fad and success
Why Innovation Fails in Corporations: culture is the difference between a fad and success
Innovation initiatives often crash and burn. Here's why.
K Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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