Innovation Culture: Avoiding “reversion to the mean”
Many companies manage to increase revenue or gain competitive advantage at a certain point in time, but few do so sustainably. From one year to the next, brief periods of innovative brilliance prove difficult to replicate. Staff members lose hope that a better future is really in sight. And the long slide back to mediocrity sets in.
There may be an answer for this problem of “reversion to the mean”. On a recent Innovation Masters Series webinar, Dennis Hoover, Chief of Staff of Emerging Technologies at Exelon Corporation, argued that the real magic of innovation starts as a seed and blossoms into an effective program only after creating a methodology to seed early innovations, while developing a culture to maintain the momentum. When successful, an innovative culture becomes a self-reinforcing ecosystem that collectively raises the potential for productive change across the organization.
Innovative enterprises possess cultural differences that set them apart from traditional firms. Most corporate leaders fear structural change and exploration of unknown territory, whereas innovation-minded leaders acknowledge disruptive action, risk taking, and acceptance of failure as healthy inputs to propel success. Failure to adapt in these ways can result in a business being forced out of the market – potentially into bankruptcy. We all know the stories: Blockbuster, Kodak, and Borders being the most widely publicized among many.
Today, company size alone does not translate to financial security. In Dennis Hoover’s words, “Big corporations need to take on the mindset of startup companies and embrace radical thinking.” A startup mindset, when distilled into an innovation-minded corporate culture, “disrupts preconceived notions of corporate structure and community.” Like a work of art, starting and building a corporate innovation program requires detailed planning, a long-term time scale, and full commitment from leadership. Once established, the potential top-end performance benefits are limitless.