The Wheels Keep Falling Off

Innovation is plagued with failure. But to try to target the real reason – and I mean, the real reason an innovation fails – for that I’d like to give an example.

It’s two o’clock in the morning. The infomercial starts with: “How would you like to lose weight?” Then the infomercial goes on to tell you that it’s not your fault you’re overweight; the real reason you weigh more than you should is a hormonal imbalance, and if you simply take this pill once a day, you’ll “achieve your weight goals that you’ve tried to achieve for a lifetime.”

So why does that TV infomercial work? First of all, 80 percent of Americans are overweight, and virtually all overweight people don’t want to be overweight. But most are not willing to look at their lives – their behaviors and their focus – as a reason for obesity. As a result, they’re looking for what I call “a fractional solution to a global, or holistic problem.” In other words, a panacea. On top of that, they want the solution to require no effort, and no analysis. Really, this last characteristic is the secret of all weight loss programs.

Now, in that context, we should look at the common pitch to solving your innovation problems. It isn’t hard to imagine the infomercial pitch here: “It’s not your fault. You just need a new system. Once this new system is installed, you’ll be able to be more customer connected and you’ll be able to deliver more successful products , right?”


The truth of the matter is that it requires effort, self analysis, and it must be – holistic. Dieting will not make you healthy. Physical fitness – alone – will not make you healthy. Your organization is a holistic being that must be made healthy through a holistic approach. It is a holistic approach that must address your unique weaknesses and your unique strengths. That’s where prescribed innovation comes into play, which I’ll describe shortly.

There are two things that guarantee successful innovation. The first is enterprise-wide innovation. The second is prescribed innovation.

Enterprise-wide innovation suggests that you must invent at all levels in your organization – from customer service to supply chain to accounting to human resources – as well as product innovation. All aspects of your company are about delivering meaningful net customer value – and you must do it holistically. You can’t necessarily fix all of your innovation problems through your Research & Development department!

Prescribed innovation means that innovation must be based on a hard and sober analysis of what works and what works in your organization, as well as what doesn’t work. It entails a unique and custom approach aimed at strengthening your weaknesses and building on your strengths.

Remember organizations are made up of – people. These people have habits, and they have beliefs. What psychologists have taught us is that there is but one way to change bad habits. Bad habits are changed only through what is referred to as “meaningful consequence.”

In my practice, I’ve found that people don’t come to us until they’ve tried every grapefruit diet and every magic pill. It isn’t until innovation has stopped, and that competition is killing them and the organization has started to fail that they develop the lucidity to recognize that things have to change.

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