Innovation and Architecture

The Center for Creative Leadership recently released the findings of their study of senior executives' opinions of the future trends they face. It is no surprise that the increasing complexity of their challenges was forefront on the executives' minds. As authors Corey Criswell and André Martin noted in the introduction to the report, "Senior executives face increasingly complex challenges that involve organizational changes, market dynamics and talent shortages. One popular response to increasing complexity is to lean on innovation. Our respondents believe that aiming for innovation through overt processes (systems and structures) and talent development is paramount to creating a culture that is agile enough to address complex challenges."

I certainly hear the cry for innovation often in my client work. Simple logic would argue that creation of an innovative culture cannot occur without first innovating current business practices. All too often the stories I hear of innovation revolve around the lone wolf who somehow beat the existing system. Innovation will not be widespread until the systems, practices, policies, and procedures are changed so that innovation becomes the path of least resistance. It may even be counterproductive to preach innovation and fire up the troops if they run smack into barriers that discourage it. Cynicism often occurs, followed by disengagement of talent when they wonder why they should bother.

In our model for analyzing and creating solutions (which you can explore by clicking here, or on the Future Shape of the Winner button in the left-hand column of this page), we recognize this architecture as being a key component of successful change. If innovation is the goal, perhaps the focus shouldn't be restricted to encouraging the players. Instead we should look seriously at the playing field. Some examples I am seeing include rigid organization structures, project teams being populated by those who are available rather than those who are necessary, resource allocation that doesn't value investment in innovation, and metrics that reward traditional practices over innovative approaches. There are, of course, many forces affecting innovation or the lack of it. But examining current architecture seems to me to be a good place to start.

What are you seeing? Examples? Challenges? Emotional outbursts?