“The only way to get mediocre is one step at a time. But you don’t have to settle. It’s a choice you get to make every day.” – Seth Godin
In my last post I named innovation as the most overused word of 2014.
It’s consistently misapplied to things that really aren’t innovative at all. Plus there’s now a surfeit of Labs , Accelerators and Hubs that have turned innovation into an industry all based around – umm – being innovative.
But as self serving as the innovation industry is becoming there’s a much bigger problem.
Ever since I made THAT comment about drones – I’ve been asked more about the return on investment of innovation than I have in the past 10 years.
So what makes us question its value? Why do we apply scrutiny to people working in innovation in a way we don’t to other functions like Operations, IT, Communications, HR or Finance?
Maybe it’s human nature to pay a lot more attention to new things whilst ignoring the waste we build up around us. When things have been around forever we stop noticing there are almost always better ways of doing things.
Here’s an example:
Bromford announce an Innovation Lab with a fairly modest investment (four full time colleagues at a cost of less than 1% of total surplus). But despite only being a few months old we’ve had calls to externally publish our business plan, targets, costs and outcomes. The leadership of Bromford has been called into question for allowing such apparent waste.
There are 1700 housing associations registered in the UK. So that’s 1700 CEOs. And probably about 5000 boards as each HA seems to have at least two or three. That simply cannot be efficient. But no one questions it.
Now expand that thinking.
Across Local Government , care , support and the welfare to work sector.
Now include the funders , think tanks and all the industry bodies.
Virtually all of them will have their own network of offices with their own IT, Communications, HR and Finance functions. Most were built with pre-digital thinking and with little thought about collaboration.
And if we looked closely at those hundreds of thousands of organisations with their billions of pounds of funding we’d be able to deduce three things:
- One third would be excellent – and have a high capability and confidence when it comes to innovation.
- One third would be average – although they think about innovation they only occasionally transform thought into action.
- And one third would be absolute rubbish.
So I’ve a plan. Let’s continue to challenge the self proclaimed innovators.
They should publish their outcomes and their costs.
They need to lead the way when it comes to transparency.
But why let mediocrity off so lightly?
- Let’s start questioning the organisations that exhibit no commitment to innovation.
- Let’s challenge the publicly funded bodies where innovation is not addressed in their strategy or values.
- Let’s see what resources organisations are allocating to disruptive thinking.
And let’s ask them whose responsibility it is to act upon bright ideas from the public and their staff – and ensure they get explored.
Mediocrity isn’t an accident. Let’s declare war on it.