Being too innovative

Outside of the ‘project extranet’ field, I have witnessed at close hand the introduction to the market of a new software-based project analysis and planning methodology, but (perhaps as with any new technology that doesn’t fit into an existing market category) take-up has been slow. I was therefore struck by an article by Joel Orr – who is in a similar position, with Kollabnet – in Machine Design. In it, Joel suggests innovation can expose apparent weaknesses within an organisation: "corporate executives have difficulty believing that someone else’s innovation might bring about double-digit improvements in their own business". He goes on:

Innovation is an unnatural act. It induces fear, unmitigated by the promise of great gains in productivity. The fear is fear of personal loss – prestige; power; respect. The promises are of gains for the organization, not for the individual.

In short, we need to somehow override individual’s concerns about their own status, power, rewards, etc. What might help would be a new organisational focus on the good of the team, the department, the company…. In the collaboration sphere, for example, it makes little sense for organisations to reward individuals solely on the basis of each one’s own achievements as opposed to how successfully they have collaborated with others. In my book, I suggest:

"managers could amend employee job descriptions to emphasise team performance and, while accepting there is still room for individual brilliance, place less emphasis on individual achievement alone. … Collaborative working should be rewarded, thus motivating and incentivising employees to change their attitudes and behaviours….

"Business process legacy can also inhibit effective collaboration. Organisations may be tempted simply to carry on doing things the way they always did – ignoring the danger that, by doing so, they will always get what they always got. Instead, they may need to challenge accepted processes and thinking. Where collaboration tools are applied in organisations that do not encourage collaborative processes, it is not surprising that the tools may appear to fail."

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