I enjoyed the recent discussion we had on Innovation and Execution. I was delighted to read an article in Sunday's New York Times business section titled "Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work," by Janet Rae-Dupree. In her article, Ms. Dupree states that innovation is much more than the aha! moment. It is most often the years of hard work in the background that really leads to innovation. I think she is right on.
It is so easy to fall in love with any idea when it holds the promise of transforming your organization into a top performer. Truth be told, I make a fair share of my living selling these ideas. But I am often wary of overselling the ideas by promising results. That stance probably cost me some sales along the way, but I feel that when I offer ideas I am really only offering choices. I believe passionately about the choices I offer, and I do argue vigorously for their implementation. I believe, however, that those of us who have chosen the consulting and training profession have an obligation to help our clients understand the depth of the hard work that will be necessary to gain a return on our offerings.
Our clients want to believe a brilliant idea can magically make a difference. Need to fill your leadership pipeline? Hold leadership training classes. Not as efficient as you would like to be? Educate the organization in the Toyota Production System. Collaboration a problem? Maybe some teambuilding activities. These are all good ideas and good choices. They do not become actionable without the hard work required to unfreeze old behaviors, remove existing organizational barriers, build new reinforcement mechanisms into the system, provide the necessary funding for support activities, etc. The ideas will not become part of the way work is done in the organization unless they produce results that help the organization win customers, investors, and top talent. Yes, the work matters. And results matter. And hard work matters. Because without it, there are no results.