Is your organization struggling to drive new innovation initiatives? The culprit may be that your employees are too afraid to fail. When talking with organizations I often hear the same refrain – we want our people to innovate but they won’t step forward to lead new innovation initiatives. Earlier this year I consulted with a company that was struggling with the same problem. The organization had been around for over 25 years and just a couple of years earlier a new CEO was brought in from Silicon Valley. The new CEO saw a lot of potential within the organization but too much of that potential was locked up behind department silos or trapped in the mindset of how things had always been done. He wanted his people to be free to innovate and drive the next wave of ideas and opportunity for the organization but after two years he wasn’t seeing the results he had hoped for.
Last Friday CNET reported that Nike had fired a large part of their Digital Sports division, the team responsible for their FuelBand product. It was estimated that of the 70 person hardware team, 70-80% were let go. Based on the comments of Nike representatives it sounds as though the company isn’t abandoning the technology altogether but just pivoting away from hardware manufacturing. With more phones and wearable devices adding the necessary chips to track motion it looks like Nike will pivot to become more of an integrator into other hardware platforms.
Mentors aren’t supposed to be Sherpas carrying your heavy pack for you up the mountain but they are meant to help guide you, provide context, and offer their advice. Too often I see organizations trying to shirk their responsibility in developing future leaders by suggesting that personal development is the responsibility of the employees. Certainly the employee is responsible for taking “ownership” of their own development but that is a far cry from organizations not having any responsibility. When this gap exists it will be at the organizations own peril – they will struggle to replace departing leaders with qualified candidates and eventually they will battle with the Peter Principle.
Back in 2009 Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries (@ericries) had coined the term “pivot” for the technique used by tech startups to change the strategic direction of their companies based on what they had learned (see his original post here). The theory goes that by doing you are actually learning something along the way (see my previous post on learning from feedback loops in systems thinking) and that you might find the “something” that you had learned has a better chance of success than your original strategy. The alternative is that at least it will enable you to extend your organization’s runway further out into the future in search of success.
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