In an earlier post, we looked at how the invisible force of corporate gravity can grow over the years, making it nearly impossible to accomplish anything beyond what is traditional for an organization.

Corporate Innovation vs. Corporate Gravity

Organizations are now turning to innovation to help drive corporate growth for the future. Employees are being encouraged to “think outside the box” to come up with new ideas for running the company. Because everyone is capable of creativity, employees can easily “stretch” their thinking to identify creative opportunities for innovation. And the results are impressive.

We worked with a company recently that had created more than two dozen Innovation Teams to explore creative opportunities for growth. They were very successful at coming up with a large portfolio of exciting new concepts in areas that were brand new to the organization.

But then corporate gravity reared its ugly head. When asked to select from the portfolio what they wanted to work on, most of these Innovation Teams selected the safe ideas, the familiar ideas, ideas that were closest to their current business. The invisible force of corporate gravity that permeates the culture of any organization pulled them in, kept them from wandering too far home.

Overcoming Corporate Gravity

Most teams do not realize the impact of corporate gravity on their work. Making team members aware of this force and having them commit to overcoming it will help make them more innovative.

But that is not enough. There is only one force in an organization that can overcome the force of corporate gravity —a mandate for innovation from senior executives. By creating a goal for innovative products (e.g., 25% of annual revenue from products introduced in the past 3 years), it forces the organization to push for the more innovative breakthrough ideas versus the safer incremental ones.

If you are not a senior executive, you can still overcome corporate gravity in your work group with a “wildcard” approach. Whenever you ask for a recommendation or a proposal, insist on receiving two options —the “safe” option that would be created by corporate gravity and a “wildcard option” that defies corporate gravity. Asking for a wildcard is equivalent to asking, “If you had no resource constraints and were asked to double the business, what would you recommend?”

Knowing that question will be asked of them will cause people to go against the natural force of corporate gravity and explore new worlds of innovation. Worlds without gravity.

Have you experienced innovation winning out over corporate gravity?

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