Innovate or Die

by Nicola Tyler 

“The entrepreneur upsets and disorganizes…his task is ‘creative disruption.” – Peter F. DruckerInnovation and Entrepreneurship

The age of digital disruption and rapid agile development requires that we think differently.  It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.  It’s not an option, it’s a mandate.  So why are organisations still teetering on the brink of innovation, failing to make the leap of faith required to think differently and take action? Fear is a debilitating emotion.    

Innovate or die is a strong statement. Innovation is an option, death is not. Many companies do everything in their power to avoid death. But great companies know that for something new to be born, something has to die. In fact, the best companies know that the right time to destroy value is on the up, never on the down.  Change when you’re winning if you want to get ahead; that’s the role that innovation can play.

Nothing New

This isn’t anything new.  Like many concepts in business, this message has been around for years. Clayton Christensen from Harvard speaks about it in his book The Innovators Dilemma.  Edward de Bono wrote about it in 1968, when he first exposed us to the concept of lateral thinking – suggesting that there was a scientific and mathematical need for creativity. Alvin Toffler, who has made a Harry Potter-esque comeback, wrote about it in Future Shock, way back in 1970. Charles Handy wrote about it in the 1980s in The Age of Unreason.  Jack Matson wrote about it in 1996, in Innovate or Die. How much more evidence do we need? How many more thinkers do we need to ask? We cannot create new value if we are not prepared to destroy some value in the process. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, something has to die to give birth to something new. It’s the same in relationships, it’s the same in business, it’s the same in life.  

The Sigmoid Curve Says It Best

In the book The Age of Unreason, Charles Handy talks about the Sigmoid Curve.  The premise is that organisations have a life-cycle, moving from Inception through Growth to Maturity and then Decline.  The theory suggests that you need to destroy value to create value, and that you have two primary opportunities to do that.  You can change at Point A (during the Growth phase) or at Point B (in the Decline phase).  Both points represent change and pain.  But it hurts more to change at point B, than it does to change at Point A.  Changing at Point B can also be catastrophic – it requires more energy to change in decline, and sometimes the momentum of the change around you is greater than the energy or the will you have in the business to execute on the change.  Changing at Point B can be too late – ask Kodak, I’m sure they will tell you.

Think Differently | Act Differently

Wherever you are in your organization’s life-cycle, take innovation seriously.  Innovation is not only about thinking but about thinking in action. Innovation is the successful exploitation of a new idea. If you haven’t made the investment yet, make it now. If you haven’t taken that leap of faith, take it now. If you are debilitated by fear, go for therapy. Innovation isn’t an option – in fact, it’s the life force of your organisation.

Nicola Tyler, is a highly respected strategic thinker. With over 20 years of experience in Strategy, Consulting, Leadership, Development and Coaching, she is an Associate of the Gordon Institute of Business, a Master Trainer in a full range of de Bono Thinking tools. Working both locally and internationally, she delivers her own “Strategic Conversation” methodology to senior teams committed to innovation and driving sustainable results.

Nicola has shared the stage with world renowned thought leaders such as Tom Peters, Robert Kaplan, Ricardo Semler, Edward de Bono, Dave Ulrich, Martin Seligman, Richard Koch and Martin Lindstrom.