Upstarts outperform and out-innovate established companies all the time. It’s not the resources. It’s not the lack of ideas. At most companies, there’s an invisible force dragging innovation. Welcome to the pull of corporate gravity.

Innovation scares employees. If it fails, the responsible employee assumes the liability. Corporate gravity keeps workers from straying too far from the business model.

That big idea may bring penalties or punishment, a chilling force that dampens the fires of innovation. Protecting the innovators is key, says MIT research affiliate Grant McCracken, whose Culturematic book is due out this month. As he writes in a Harvard Business Review blog:

“The rock: the new imperative for innovation that has overtaken the corporation in the last few years.

The hard place: the new intolerance for risk. Competition rises. Margins fall. Wall Street wants growth. Senior managers frown on anything that won’t pan out.

In a phrase: innovation is getting more urgent but risk is getting riskier.”

That intolerance for risk is part of the corporate gravity that pulls employees back, silencing innovation.

The symptoms of corporate gravity

Some of the warning signs, or symptoms, of corporate gravity are obvious; others are not:

  • Flat or predictable growth
  • Deeply held beliefs and unexamined assumptions masquerading as facts
  • Lack of recent product or service launches

Outsmart the upstarts

McCracken proposes an innovation ‘airlock’ that protects employees. But what if innovation could become embedded in the corporate DNA, accepting that extraordinary results require risk.

What if the network of conversations that happen across the enterprise unleashes innovators by giving them permission to fail?

Unleash the innovators with a Breakthrough Performance methodology that inspires and rewards the risk takers. If you don’t, your competitors will.

Resist that gravitational pull. Plan for extraordinary results. Download The Power of Strategy Innovation today.

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