Creativity and Innovation Cannot Ward Off Complacency

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Creativity and Innovation

Complacency creeps into the most unassuming organizations, including those that operate with creativity and innovation.

Consider the buggy whip. What a great business that must have been when horse and carriage was a primary mode of transportation. You didn’t really need innovation and creativity to make a buggy whip. You just needed efficiency and quality.

Those are admirable aspects of a business, and even today it takes plenty of focus and dedication to achieve improvements in efficiency and quality.

But for buggy whips, that’s all you needed until a guy like Henry Ford came along and turned the horse and carriage trade into solely a business that transports tourists.

Ford’s success, and the associated decline of the buggy whip industry, is a good example of how enterprise complacency develops. Another example, which involves literal development, is Kodak. For a century, that company was the dominant player in the photo development field. Its film was in most cameras. Its paper on most prints.

Business-as-usual?

Kodak got that way because it was an innovator. It made the best, newest photography products. But Kodak wasn’t prepared for digital photography. And now the company is a shell of its former self. What happened to Kodak happens to a lot of companies these days: They get stuck in a business-as-usual mindset.

They get complacent.

Which is an extremely dangerous way of thinking these days. It’s great when your business model is successful. But you also have to think about the future. Whatever made you successful last year — or for the last 100 years — may not make you successful next year, much less for the next 100. If you want to avoid breeding complacency, try doing the following:

Don’t get mesmerized by success.

A company in crisis will change everything because what they have isn’t working. But companies that have been successful don’t want to give up any aspect of what has made them successful. Because change is risky. And why change what’s working? The reason why: Because today’s business environment will change tomorrow, even if your company doesn’t change.

Know that numbers aren’t everything.

Companies have obligations to meet. Shareholders want increasing stock prices and dividends. Employees want regular raises. But primarily focusing on making next year’s or next quarter’s numbers is a trap. It narrows your organization’s focus to doing what you’ve always done, albeit it with slight improvements.

Do reward people for doing something other than what they have always done.

You have to give people a reason to take a risk. You have to give them rewards for being creative and innovative. That starts with a leadership mandate that the company values change and will reward it.

What does innovation mean to you? Download Bob Johnson and Doug Bate’s presentation on an enterprise-wide approach to employee growth.

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