The catch phrase of the Republican National Convention, “We Built It,” was a staged response to a strategically clipped quote from a speech by President Obama. As part of the government versus business debate, it has hopefully run its course. But as a lesson on innovation, it feels like a missed opportunity.
I submit for your consideration, five words that I'm beginning to think kill innovation in organizations. Use them at your own peril.
Are our best efforts to bring the electric vehicle to market having the right effect? It’s important to remember that not all disruptive innovation is good, and not all good innovation is disruptive. Continue reading
Target Panic. What a great diagnosis. As soon as a read the term, I knew I’d suffered from it. Have you? Looking back, I can now see it in the would-be entrepreneurs and innovators I’ve worked with who, despite promising ideas and heroic efforts, never made much progress.
Just finished reading The Responsible Company, the second business book by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. His first, Let My People Surfing, laid out Chouinard’s personal path and the company’s history before spending the bulk of the book on the business philosophy of the small (roughly $400M) outdoor gear and apparel company. This second book establishes Chouinard’s voice and leadership in the new sustainable business movement—though he and co-author Vincent Stanley are quick to point out there’s no such thing as a truly ‘sustainable’ business.
If you’re thinking about starting something—or re-orienting your existing something—towards what matters to you, this book belongs on the stack on your desk. It’s a perfectly-timed counterbalance to the Jobs biography.
Most of the advice for entrepreneurs that is floating around these days is focused on the 0.5% who are building venture capital-backed companies and furiously pivoting away in hopes of being the next Instagram. The overwhelming majority of new ventures, however, live in a different world with different rules. Gravity applies, so does the need for profitability, cash flow, paying customers, employees, and lines of credit. And regardless of what the meia tell you, this is where America actually produces most jobs. So it was great to see Jay Goltz, writing for the New York Times, offer his list of 10 Rookie Mistakes for Entrepreneurs.
I just returned from an engaging panel discussion on social entrepreneurship, at Darden’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research Conference. We were asked to speak on social entrepreneurship—a new field of venturing and venture investing, and a new and rapidly emerging curriculum in business schools across the country. I had to pose the question: If at this moment we are talking about entrepreneurship for the social good, what are we talking about, and teaching, when it’s just entrepreneurship?
It seems that the best strategy for a startup is longer a matter of if, or even when, but now how many times you pivot before you make it rich. Pivoting, a term the enterpreneur-turned-entrepreneurial sage Steve Blank recently popularized, now threatens to become the next business buzzword. Forget open innovation, what’s your pivot strategy? That’s dangerous.
Innovation is risky business. For companies pursuing sustainable innovations, these risks take on the scale of the effort and the context of the problems, the politics, and the markets involved. The most important aspect of this challenge to sustainable innovation is understanding the nature of risk at work. Without this understanding, innovation efforts are paralyzed and innovation policies—especially those intending to promote new investments—stifle them instead.
How can companies make the right decisions—for their communities, for their people, and for the environment—when governance laws force a (relatively) narrow focus on maximizing shareholder value?