06 October 2005


Seth Godin has come up with a new insight into work related attitude or philosophy for which he says the two extremes are Abundance and Technicaly Beyond Reproach (TBR). You can read it here.

What I wanted to add is that it seems to me that part of what he is seeing here is a fear based dynamic. I am no psychologist but I have spent many years working for and in large organizations and I have often wondered why large organizations tend to innovate less. I understand that part of it is just bureaucratic friction but I think there's more to it. I think it has to do with incentive, or rather lack of it, and fear.

Innovaters love to innovate but and will go to great lengths to make it happen but they are also people who have bills, mortgages, kids, etc., and when the organization is set up so that failure is pretty much guaranteed to bring you negative consequences, AND success could likely do the same, there is 1) no incentive to innovate - you can't personally benefit (other than a nice warm feeling) and 2) great reason to fear - loss of job, loss of opportunity for future job satisfaction, etc.

I love to innovate, and I spent the better part of my professional life working for large organizations that used my innovations to great advantage but to this day consider me a bit of a cowboy - rogue - amateur. Beacuse my innovations didn't come with binders three inches thick with Project Charters, Work Plans, Risk Assessments, Communications Plans, Implementation Plans... oh, and because they didn't cost a million dollars, they were/are considered amateur.

Most large organizations are set up to sqelch innovation. When you are a senior executive only 4 years from the big "R" (retirement) with a great pension, you have no incentive to rock the boat and a huge incentive to stay the course just four more years. People still need to get things done though, or at least be perceived as getting things done, so when that happens the best thing to do is to hire a huge company to come up with a solution over say.... 5 years, because we all know that doing projects with huge companies is way less risky than doing them with smaller innovative/rogue companies. ;-) (The old saying, "No one ever got fired for hiring IBM" comes to mind.)

I'm not bitter. Really. It's just a matter of learning the game. Recognize that it's a game and get better at it. That's the ticket. Ultimately, I beleive that innovation prevails and adapts, even in hostile environments (like the bacteria that lives in the mouths of deep ocean volcanos). It's possible to waste it but I don't think it's possible to stop it. Thank goodness.

Like Seth has written long ago, I think there should be a CNO - Cheif No Officer - that is the person who has to ultimately approve all No decisions in the organization. I wouldn't apply for that job because it sounds too risky to me... imagine ignorantly saying "no" to an idea that could save millions of dollars or that could improve the lives of others. Luckily there are lots of people around that are willing to take that kind of risk.


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