The Great Divide

Lions Gate Bridge

Lions Gate Bridge (click on the photo for a larger image).

I was reading a Gartner report on The Psychology of Serial Innovation. The report highlighted ten ways companies act to squash innovation:

  • Don’t select an aspiring innovation goal
  • Don’t ask people to innovate
  • Don’t recognize or reward people for their contributions
  • Publicly humiliate anyone who suggests something new or who tries something that fails
  • Only allow creative types to innovate
  • Ask for ideas but don’t act on them
  • Insist that innovation projects use the same tools, business cases and methods as the rest of the business
  • Wait for people to complete routine tasks before giving them time to innovate
  • Make the innovation process bureaucratic and slow
  • Prevent people from discussing the ideas they are trying

I then read Fast Company’s list of the most innovative companies in 2013. The top ten:

  • Nike
  • Amazon
  • Square
  • Splunk
  • Fab
  • Uber
  • Sproxil
  • Pinterest
  • Safaricom
  • Target

I did not know half of the companies on their top ten list.

Fast Company’s take on innovation is a bit different from Gartner: social is now a layer for everyone, software is the wow factor, data makes a big difference, and long-term investment still matters.

Harvard Business Review talks about how a company can define a managerial approach to innovation. And HBR offers a quadrant model to help choose the most appropriate approach to innovation.


There are so many definitions for innovation. Is it introducing something new? Is it radical change to products, processes or services? Is it fresh thinking that creates value? Is it incremental and continuous improvement?

Whenever I think about this topic, the Cupertino Riders come to mind. They helped to create and popularize mountain biking. From the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame:

The origins of mountain biking were totally innocent. It came into being not as some faddist vision of profit-oriented marketing types, but rather as the product of true cycling enthusiasts trying to find something new to do on two wheels. These cyclists found through fun and competition that the old one-speed klunkers they were using could be improved with modern cycling technology. One thing led to another and mountain biking “the sport” was born.

No corporate process created this innovation in cycling. True believers did. I wonder if the same is true for most examples of innovation.

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