Recently, a lot of innovation writers and bloggers have been lashing out against “innovation gurus” who claim that everyone inside a company should strive to be innovative.
Personally, I’ve always been critical of innovation speakers that come in and try to get everyone in a company fired up about being innovative. Not necessarily because of the message, but because rah-rah sessions, without focus and real management commitment to change, provide a temporary boost at best.
Unfortunatley, these types of programs are usually followed by a big letdown – often leaving people more jaded and cynical than before the effort.
But before completely writing off the “innovation for everyone” crowd, let’s look at the role innovation must play in a successful company. As I wrote about in my last post, one of the key roles of innovation is to eliminate a market constraint – in other words to create new customers.And as Peter Drucker said, since creating customers is the purpose of any business, marketing and innovation are its core functions.
That doesn’t mean the other functions in a company are unnecessary. It means they they need to support these core activities. For example, while someone in purchasing or accounting may not be called upon to develop a new product, these functions enable sourcing new materials and accepting payment when new products are sold.
So no – not everyone in the company can or even should innovate. But everyone must understand how what they do contributes to the success of innovation and ultimately align their actions for the success of the organization.