The Innovator’s (Invisible) Dilemma

Blog Post Innovation that Creates New Value

When asked about Sears filing for bankruptcy last October, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, said, “Amazon is not too big to fail … In fact, I predict one-day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years.” In order to remain in business, Bezos said, Amazon would have to obsess over customers, avoid looking inward, and stay hungry.

It was surprising for journalists hearing the leader of a company that has changed the face of numerous industries say these words. However, he was merely stating the obvious future for any company that is not looking ahead, looking out and listening to the market. The retail giant is no different than any company in this respect.

To the public, innovation and success appear to be guaranteed at a company like Amazon given their track record and size. However, despite the best efforts at innovation by any organization there are invisible forces acting to counter it. These forces are powerful and can remain hidden. Forces such as:

  • Corporate gravity – the invisible force preventing employees from venturing outside of convention.
  • Corporate myopia – the invisible blinders worn by executives given by the organizations past experiences, assumptions and ideals.
  • The Corporate immune system- the invisible factors like turf, bureaucracy and hierarchy that kill creativity.

These are the invisible forces Bezos was pointing to. Have you considered what forces might be keeping your organization from being more innovative? Fortunately, there are ways to sustain innovative growth and when these elements are distinguished and implemented well an organization can continue to thrive.  Doing this well serves to inoculate against the hidden countervailing forces allowing a behemoth like Amazon, or any organization, to reliably innovate and sustain growth.

And as with most things, implementing this effectively is both an art and a science.

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