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Creating the Innovation Culture: leveraging visionaries, dissenters, and other useful troublemakers in your organization

Creating the Innovation Culture: leveraging visionaries, dissenters, and other useful troublemakers in your organization

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Creating the Innovation Culture: leveraging visionaries, dissenters, and other useful troublemakers in your organization

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375 página
4 horas
Lançado em:
Apr 7, 2016
ISBN:
9780994929013
Formato:
Livro

Descrição

Creating the Innovation Culture gives managers practical strategies and hands-on advice for encouraging and managing innovation. This may mean actually encouraging dissent, which is the source of innovation, while avoiding too much conflict, which can paralyze a workplace.
• Identifies how to encourage dissent and innovation
• Illustrates how managers can inadvertently stifle dissent
• Explains how to recognize when healthy dissent crosses into conflict
• Outlines the role of the manager as a broker of innovation and collaboration
• Shows managers how to act as “political handlers” in getting dissenters’ ideas accepted
• Includes sample dialogues and an Underground Dissent Quiz
Creating the Innovation Culture is not about suppressing conflict, but about how to surface, increase, and manage a level of healthy dissent. It’s about fostering an environment where innovation occurs because of the culture, not in spite of it.
“Frances Horibe’s insightful narrative is both thought-provoking and entertaining. Creating the Innovation Culture is a vital part of any library—especially for those of us who toil daily to harness and encourage creativity. In business today, innovation is everything. This book is an exploration of the delicate balance between innovation and dissidence.”
Derek Burney
President and CEO
Corel Corporation

“In this lively, well written book, Horibe helps us realize that we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. She wisely points out that great leaders seek out and encourage people who will challenge them and their rules. This book is full of great tips on how to be this type of leader so you, too, can help innovation flourish in your organization.”
Susan Robinson
Senior Vice President
Human Resources
Manulife Financial

“It was George Bernard Shaw who once remarked with undeniable logic that all progress has to depend on the ‘unreasonable man’ because they are the ones who don’t adapt to the world as it is. This, of course, makes perfect sense, but only up to the point where one is faced with having to deal with the reality of it in an organization.
“Whether you’re one of the dissenters, someone managing dissent, or merely an observer, there’s something in Creating the Innovation Culture for everyone—an understanding of dissent and innovation, advice, new ideas, and a hint of the consequences if we don’t learn to deal with those ‘unreasonable men.’”
David Carlson
Vice President, Americas, Quality & Customer Relations
Alcatel

“Creating the Innovation Culture shows us how to manage the most creative behaviour in an organization—dissent. It accurately and effectively describes why the need for dissent is so important to stimulate innovation that we must promote, support, and manage dissent if our businesses today are going to survive and flourish.”
Geoff Smith
Vice President, Business Development
Mitel

“Frances Horibe illustrates her very astute understanding of the forces at play inside organizations. By challenging our zealous devotion to vision, quality, teams and alignment, she points out how our best intentions conspire to stomp out the very innovation that we are all dependent upon. She offers pragmatic solutions for how to continue to hear dissent, how to keep it in the open, get it out of the underground, and prepare the ground for innovation. This is a must-read for leaders serious about creating the conditions for innovation.”
Rod Brandvold
Vice President, Organizational Development
Cognos Inc.

“Frances Horibe has made a compelling case for leaders to encourage diversity of ideas and to embrace ‘dissenters’ for their organizations to be innovative and successful.”
Sol Kasimer
Chief Executive Officer
YMCA

“We are on the edge of awareness that organizations have to learn how to really think, not just ‘manage knowledge.’ This book builds this awareness in plain, simple, and hard-hitting language.”
Dr. Min Basadur
Michael G. DeGroote School of Busines
Lançado em:
Apr 7, 2016
ISBN:
9780994929013
Formato:
Livro

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Creating the Innovation Culture - Frances Horibe

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Chapter 1 The Need for Innovation

Radical, category-breaking innovation is what is needed today. Some companies can do it consistently but most can’t. Why not?

The Need for Innovation

Time was all a company needed to do was improve. If it did it continuously (and that was hard enough), it could expect to be successful. Those days are long gone. The information explosion, the global economy—all the things you’d have to have been in a coma to have missed—have conspired to change the rules. In fact, Harvard Business Review concludes that pursuing incremental improvement while rivals reinvent the industry is like fiddling while Rome burns¹ and Business Week believes that what’s likely to kill you in the new economy is not somebody doing something better, it’s somebody doing something different.² Geoff Smith, VP of Business Development for Mitel, a manufacturer of telephone switching equipment, provides a perfect example. Our competitors are not Lucent or Nortel, he maintains. Our competitors are companies like Cisco that see voice communication as just another data application that they can give away. They’re giving away our whole business.

So what is the new imperative? The Society of Management Accountants calls "innovation… fundamental to the quest for profitable, sustainable growth."³ Peter Drucker, probably the most insightful management guru ever, deems it the one business competence needed for the future. Fortune magazine’s advice to companies who want to be named to its Most Admired List? Innovate, innovate, innovate. Innovation currently accounts for more than half of all growth. And it is enormously profitable. A study done on the rate of return for 17 successful innovations showed a mean return of 56% compared with an average ROI of 16%.

Companies are catching on to this sea change. In an Ernst & Young study, European and North American companies called innovation the most important criterion for success in the future. Even technology firms who presumably are leading this charge consider making innovation happen the industry’s single biggest problem.

Jack Welch, CEO of GE and seen as the world’s greatest living manager, obsesses about his company’s ability to break the glass—that is, continue to innovate. He worries whether it has the right gene pool—do people who join big companies want to break the glass? We’ve got to break this company to do this—there’s no discussion, we’ve just got to break it.

So organizations need to innovate to survive and they know it. But before we explore this issue further, let’s ask an important question.

What is Innovation Anyhow?

The commonly held view is that innovation is creativity—new ideas, knowledge creation. That’s why companies spend mega-bucks for courses where people play with brightly colored blocks to get their creative juices going. But it isn’t just that. It goes beyond idea generation to putting those ideas into action. Steve Wynn, CEO of Mirage Resorts—one of Fortune’s most admired corporations—points out that the challenge is getting the steady stream of good ideas out of the labs and creativity campfires, through marketing and manufacturing and all the way to the customer. In other words, while you need to keep the pump primed with lots of great ideas, it will be for naught if they don’t see the light of day. Management expert Rosabeth Moss Kanter has long maintained that a good new idea means little—except risk—without…. excellence in execution.⁵ So, if you have a lot of off-the-wall thoughts, you’re creative. If you can turn them into something of value, you’re innovative.

In addition, in today’s fast-moving, category-breaking business environment, building a better mousetrap maybe effective, but it’s not innovation. Innovation is using supersonic waves to beam them back to their native habitat; it’s developing a whole new way to get rid of them. It is not about marginal improvement on a marginal product.

Accordingly, Fortune magazine maintains that only non-linear—that is non-obvious, non-incremental—innovation will produce long-term wealth creation. Radical innovation, the kind inconsistent with your present strategy, is no longer an option but an imperative. Geoff Yang, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist with one of best track records in the business (300% annual return on investment), agrees. To come up with concepts for new products, CEOs have to encourage breakthrough thinking.

So, to be innovative, the idea has to be creative and implemented. To be competitive, it has to be a great leap forward. Otherwise, close but no cigar.

What kind of innovation is required?

We know that innovation has to be creative, implementable, and radical. But on what? Products and services are the obvious place but there are many other areas where we need to rethink our old habits. Guy Kawasaki, former marketing guru for Apple and author of Rules for Revolution, says that habits will kill business in the new economy. I’ve listed some of them below:

Our product is less terrible than yours . Realistically, in the old economy and before the Internet, if consumers didn’t know they could get your products 20% cheaper on the other side of town, you automatically made 20% more profit. What they didn’t know fell directly to the bottom line. And if you were even marginally better than your home-town competitor, you were in gravy. Today, everyone can reach far and wide to get products that aren’t just less bad but actually work better.

Budget is paramount . If it’s not in the budget, it doesn’t exist, no matter how worthwhile. And budgets, the last time I looked, are not instruments of risk. By putting them above innovation, companies avoid those high-risk, high-payoff opportunities that are the essence of innovation.

Outsourcing saves money . In the short-term, it does but it kills you in the longer term. Because in outsourcing the work, you also outsource your talent, your core competencies, and your capacity to innovate.

The best product wins . I wish, I wish, I wish that were true. Then we’d all be working on Apples and would have played our videotapes in Beta format. First to market seems to be the way to win. This means software with lots of bugs that will be fixed, later, honest. It is forcing us to rethink the value and the profitability of quality.

These habits are no longer useful and in fact will get us into trouble. We need to come up with new ways to address new challenges. We need to innovate our way out of our old habits.

Some Organizations are Great at Innovation

Some organizations have a marvelous history of innovation; not just the breakthrough that put them on the map, but a continuing stream. 3-M produces 30% of its revenue from products that didn’t exist four years ago. Companies that innovate successfully understand the need to be radical. Hewlett-Packard makes both laser and ink jet printers, products that naturally compete. However, rather than try to avoid the competition, H-P encouraged the two divisions to cannibalize each other’s markets. The result? It is leader in both laser and ink jet printers.

Similarly, Jack Welch’s success is at least partially attributable to his radical innovation. When he became CEO of GE in 1980, he figuratively blew up what was at the time the most successful company in the United States. He demanded every GE business be first or second in its field. With that strategy, GE today is consistently one of the most admired company in the world (i.e. most profitable, given this is Fortune Magazine doing the admiring). But Welch has now realized that the innovation imperative requires a new mindset. GE no longer wants its member companies to be first in their field. To be more open to innovation everywhere, it expects them to be players—not even necessarily the dominant one—in many markets.

Some companies can innovate successfully and are rewarded handsomely for it. But it is a fragile thing. Compare Fortune’s picks for most innovative companies in 1999 and 2000. In 1999, it was Home Depot, Intel, and Fortune Brands in that order. A year later, it was Enron, Nokia, and Home Depot. Only Home Depot stayed within the top three and it dropped from first to third. Needless to say, none of these companies stopped innovating but it is clear that staying on top of the innovation game is as hard as getting there in the first place.

Some are Crummy

So some organizations seem to have the magic bullet. But most don’t and they know it. The American Management Association conducted a survey of 500 chief executives. These executives, like the companies in the Ernst & Young study cited earlier, named innovation as the top answer to what must one do to survive in the 21st century? But only 6% thought they were doing the great job necessary for today’s economy. There have been many failures.

Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is famous for innovations that Xerox did not exploit—like fax machines, laser printers, and graphical user interface (GUI). The problem continues to exist. PARC’s strategy-integration manager Mark Bernstein reports that a number of projects with money-making potential are orphaned, even though industry analysts have urged Xerox to focus on PARC’s new technologies to pull itself out of its present slump. But they are also skeptical Xerox will do so, saying that a central irony of Xerox’s predicament is that it may ultimately be undone by its inability to adapt to the computer-driven, networked world its own lab helped to create.

Procter & Gamble has a similar problem. It has a long history and is credited with revolutionizing business with its use of brand marketing. But its last major breakthrough was Pampers in 1961. They went from innovation to merely improving—Tide has had over 60 new and improveds. The company has fallen seriously behind its competitors. It had become known as the land of the Proctoids—a place that squelches entrepreneurs, creative types, freethinkers—where ‘troublemakers don’t belong.’ In 1999, the new CEO, Durk Jager, promised to act aggressively to fix this problem. He said, The core business is innovation. If we innovate well, we will ultimately win. If we innovate poorly, we won’t win.⁸ Seventeen months later, he was out of a job, with the industry consensus being that he had pushed change too fast for the Proctoids.

Other companies struggle with innovation. Motorola resisted going from analog to digital and lost its commanding lead in cellular phones. McDonald’s stuck to its successful formula too long, resulting in creative inertia and a string of innovation flops like McPizza, Mclean Burger, and the adult Arch Deluxe. Levi Strauss stopped innovating and destroyed its brand name to such an extent that its estimated market value has gone from $14 billion to $8 billion while The Gap has gone from $7 billion to $40 billion in the same time period.

Pretty depressing. Much as organizations want innovation, they’re not great at it. In fact, a study of 46 leading-edge companies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East found that companies unintentionally kill it. They hire creative people and then prevent them from using their skills. The Financial Post calls this inability to innovate the single most dangerous gap in business today.

So here we are, knowing that innovation is the next competitive edge and also that generating and sustaining it has daunted many a talented and determined manager. Why? Well, that’s what this book is about. Not only why companies can’t sustain innovation but what they can do to change.

About This Book

The first section of this book, Chapters 2 to 4, helps us understand how we got into this pickle and how the encouragement of dissent can play a central role in fostering a more innovative culture.

There are four main things managers need to do to encourage dissent and therefore innovation in their organizations. The first is to avoid inadvertently suppressing open dissent that naturally occurs. This topic will be covered in Chapters 5 and 6.

Chapters 7 to 9 help managers work with people who have taken on the role of a dissenter. That is, they typically dissent no matter what. While they can be pains in the neck, they can also be very helpful in creating an innovative culture. These chapters help managers identify them, coach them, and act as their political handler in getting their ideas accepted in the company.

Much as dealing with open dissent is a challenge, it is even more difficult if the dissent is underground. Chapter 10 will help you identify if your dissent has gone underground and Chapters 11 and 12 will help you to bring it to the surface again.

A culture that is going to sustain innovation needs to incorporate ways to encourage continuing dissent. Chapter 13 will cover how you kickstart the move to an innovation culture, Chapter 14 will deal with processes and mechanisms that support innovation and Chapter 15 show individual managers how they can help the culture change.

Chapter 16 deals with dissenters who are destructive and must be let go. The final chapter provides some thoughts on where to go from here in the evolving role of manager as promoter of innovation.

Summary

Even though having a great idea is, in and of itself, an accomplishment, the true test for any organization is getting it to market. The more we rely on innovation for success, the more we understand how tough that road is. The next chapter will explore how we have set up organizations that are inadvertently unfriendly to innovation.

Main Points

•Innovation is the key to long-term, sustained growth.

•It must be radical not incremental innovation.

•Some companies can do it but the majority can’t.

References for This Chapter

Brooker, Katrina, Plugging the Leaks at P&G, Fortune (February 21, 2000), pp. 44-48.

Colvin, Geoffrey, America’s Most Admired Companies, Fortune (February 21, 2000), p. 110.

Colvin, Geoffrey, The Ultimate Manager, Fortune (November 22, 1999), pp. 185-187.

Hamel, Gary, Driving Grassroots Growth, Fortune (September 4, 2000), p. 186.

Hamel, Gary, Reinvent Your Company, Fortune (June 12, 2000), pp. 99-118.

Kahn, Jeremy, The World’s Most Admired Companies, Fortune (October 11, 1999), pp. 267-70.

Kawasaki, Guy, Rules for Revolutionaries (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1999), as quoted in Fortune (May 24, 1999), p. 296(d).

Kupfer, Andrew, Xerox Jam is too Much for Thoman, Fortune (May 29, 2000), pp. 42-4.

Munk, Nina, How Levi’s Trashed a Great American Brand, Fortune (April 12, 1999).

Rose, Ian, Valuing Intellectual Capital: Summary Report, IBR Consulting Services Limited (August 1997), p. 24.

Roth, David, From Poster Boy to Whipping Boy: Burying Motorola, Fortune (July 6, 1998), p. 28.

Sellers, Patricia, Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals Don’t Work—Just Ask P&G, Fortune (April 3, 2000), pp. 39-41.

Sellers, Patricia, Reinventing the Arch: McDonald’s Starts Over, Fortune (June 22, 1998), p. 34.

Stein, Nicholas, The World’s Most Admired Companies, Fortune (October 2, 2000), p. 183.

Stewart, Thomas A., 3-M Fights Back, Fortune (February 5, 1996), p. 99.

The Society of Management Accountants of Canada, Collaborative Innovation and the Knowledge Economy (Management Accounting Issues paper 17) p. 40.

Valery, Nicholas, A Survey of Innovation in Industry, The Economist (February 20, 1999), p. 7.

Chapter 2 The Efficiency-Innovation Dichotomy

While on the road to efficiency, we have inadvertently created organizations that are inhospitable to innovation.

Innovation: Fantasy and Fact

If this were a better world, innovation would happen like this: A bright-eyed, respectful, and tidy young employee would bounce in to your office with a category-breaking idea. You would immediately see its value. You would heap praise on Tidy, who would accept it with becoming bashfulness and never need any other recognition. You take Tidy’s great idea up the line where you are hailed as a genius for seeing its potential. Amid acclaim and intimations of promotion, money is thrown at it and everyone drops everything to help you get the idea to market. You hit the market in record time, make mega-bucks, and Fortune is asking for an interview.

Well, if you’re working in a company where that happens, write me. I want to work there too.

Instead, innovation is more likely to happen like this: Even if the first part of the scenario holds—Tidy bounces in, you get how big the idea is immediately—your next step is to take it up the line. Your own boss is a bit of a stick in the mud. She shakes her head. I dunno. Can’t see it working, can you? I mean, it’s not sticking to our knitting, is it?

You do a major sell job and convince her to let you take it to the next level. You do a stunning presentation but a VP raises objections. How can you be sure of the ROI projections? Haven’t you inflated the market potential? This prototype is awfully hard to use. I don’t think customers will go for it. You answer as best you can but feel the room going his direction. You know his objections aren’t for the good of the company. If you’re successful, it will take business away from his area. His real objections are that it won’t be good for him.

The VP convinces everyone in the room they should look before they leap. You are asked to gather more consumer data. But, you protest, With category-breaking ideas, consumer data aren’t any good. Because it’s new, customers have to try it before they decide if they like it!

So you want us to buy a pig in a poke? demands your nemesis.

No, of course not, but… The tide has turned against you and you have to agree to collect data you know won’t tell you anything.

You launch the market study. While the focus groups are running, you get wind that the nemesis VP is quietly campaigning to tank your idea. He has even got to your boss. She comes in. Do you really think this will work? she asks, wringing her hands. After all, it’s so new. Will the customer understand how to use it?

You answer as you have a million times before. If we do our marketing well, I’m sure they will. It’s not that complicated. It’s just new.

But Nemesis says we’ll confuse the marketplace. Then everybody will suffer. Your boss leans forward and lowers her voice. Confidentially, Nemesis has told me most of the other VPs are negative. He’s pretty sure that when you go back, there won’t be much support around the table. And if that’s the case… she shrugs. You know our fearless leader. He won’t go out on a limb.

Just like you, you think to yourself. But you just repeat, I’m sure the data will convince the committee.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Tidy is getting restive. Why don’t they get off their butts and approve it? he demands. And I want stock options for this. Threats about taking his marbles and going home are unspoken but in the air.

Knowing that the data will not give you the knockout punch you need, you start campaigning with the other VPs. You buttonhole every one you can and talk up the great and exciting potential. You let them paint the picture of the new idea as a way to take Nemesis down a peg or two. Most of the VPs are noncommittal but interested.

On the day of the pitch, you downplay the data, which are all you predicted—i.e., not helpful—and instead, give an impassioned plea for the idea as the wave of the future. You show the committee how they can be market leaders. They need only decide what to wear for the Fast Company cover story that is bound to come. Over the objections of Nemesis and with the tepid support of your own boss, the funding is approved and you breathe a sigh of relief.

You race back to Tidy with the great news. He looks down and shuffles his feet. Gee, that’s great, boss, but…. He looks up. I just accepted an offer from e-Product. I was going to give my notice today.

You can’t take your idea with you! you explode. It belongs to the company!

Tidy shrugs. I know. But I’ve had a couple of others—completely different. E-Product has already lined up the funding.

You go back to your office and close the door. You know as well as Tidy that the basic prototype isn’t enough. He’s the only one who really understands how it works and how to take it to a viable product. Even if you could get a replacement tomorrow, just getting the person up to speed will take months. And you promised to hit the market by spring!

A knock at the door. Nemesis sticks his head in. Congrats on the funding, he said, his shark teeth spread into a grin. Didn’t think you’d pull it off. He walks in and puts out a hand. You shake it gingerly.

No hard feelings, of course, he says.

Of course, you reply weakly. After all, I’m going to need your help to market.

Nemesis nods. We’ll do everything we can to make this a success. After all, what’s good for the company is good for us, no?

You straighten. I really appreciate that, Nemesis. Why don’t we meet next week to get the ball rolling?

Without a blink, Nemesis shakes his head. Next week…no can do. I’m in Stockholm.

Can Linda sub for you?

No, no…Linda’s fully committed. Couldn’t let her go.

What about Ralph?

Again, the shaking of the head. I don’t think Ralph has the big picture you’d need…no, not Ralph.

Well, when would you be available?

Nemesis shrugs. I dunno—what with that acquisition fall-out. I’m pretty booked right now. He straightens. But call Vicky and see where she can fit you in. I’m sure we can do it for such an important project. With that, he waves and is gone.

You put your head in your hands. You know the drill. You’ll call Vicky and, wonder of wonders, Nemesis is completely booked for months and months. And nobody can commit Nemesis’s resources except him. You know he’s just begun to fight.

The Drive for Efficiency

The old guard protecting its turf against a new idea is a challenge for any innovation. However, in addition to office politics, there is something else—even more embedded in the way we do things—that makes creating and sustaining innovation difficult. It is our drive for efficiency.

Ever since Frederick Taylor held a stopwatch over some hapless factory worker, a large part of our work has been focused on efficiency. Because efficiency turns into profit, we constantly ask ourselves, How do we get more done in a shorter time? Today, that drive is captured in our obsession with speed. First to market is the winner. Speed to compete in this restless global economy. It’s the early bird on steroids with faxes and e-mails, FedEx and downloading to help.

Because we’ve worked at it, we’re pretty good at it. We have discovered that Taylor’s time and motion studies might have been all right for the simpler manufacturing work of the last century, but today we need more sophisticated ways. And we have hit on three very effective ones. The first is vision. Rather than ordering everyone to go in the same direction, policing to make sure they do, and punishing those who don’t, we engage staff in a common vision because, over the longer haul, it is a much more efficient and effective way to reach our goals. We also have leaders who are, by and large, pretty talented in getting us to the finish line. Finally, we use teams because, although it may take more time up front to build a team, they are marvellously efficient in the longer term to get things done. So visionary companies, good leaders, and well-functioning teams all help us be as efficient as we can. And every one of them contributes to a climate that is relatively unfriendly to innovation. How can that be?

Innovation and Visionary Companies

Visionary companies are ones we all want to work in. They have a strong sense of where they’re going; everyone is committed to that goal. Often the leader is held in high esteem, and his or her pronouncements have the ability to move the organization quickly in new directions. Loyalty is a strong feature, and the sense of everyone pulling together keeps people eager to come to work and contribute. Recognizing how fundamentally efficient this kind of culture is, companies have made many efforts to create it.

But, for all its positive characteristics, it has downsides. A company strongly committed to a goal will suppress, push out, or just not recruit those who think a different goal is better. And research shows that like-minded people talking only among themselves (as would happen in a company with a unity of purpose) reinforces their intolerance for different ideas. Conference Board studies have concluded that organizations have difficulty developing a new perspective because they are blind to their own assumptions. C.J. Nemeth, in a California Management Review article, goes even further by saying that there is evidence that the atmosphere most likely to induce creativity [innovation] is one diametrically opposed to the ‘cult-like’ corporate culture.¹⁰

This has a ring of truth, don’t you think? Ever been in a company where high quality is valued? What do you think of people who do less than their best? If you’re a really fine human being, you might just shrug and think, To each his own, but if you’re like the rest of us, you’re more likely to have dark thoughts about his parentage and personal habits. You might avoid working with him because he won’t put in the extra hours and you’ll be stuck with everything. In a culture that reinforces high quality, there is very little sympathy for someone who just gets by. And yet, isn’t it possible that sometimes this guy is right? Is it always necessary to do things perfectly? Aren’t there times when good enough is good enough, especially in our first-to-market era? But an organization committed only to the best and which silences those who think differently will have little ability to recognize, much less act on, that trend.

Discouraging different views might be effective as long as the current goal is viable. But once that goal is achieved or, worse, has become irrelevant while you’re still working toward it, a culture that suppresses dissident views will have no one around to point that out.

Wait a minute! you may be scoffing. There are lots of companies that are both innovative and have strong, committed cultures. Like the ones profiled in the last chapter. True. But Nemeth believes that these companies are successful because the leader is the innovator. If that’s the case, having a committed and loyal company to implement the idea is a distinct advantage.

But there is a downside: The leader had better be right. Because, right or wrong, her idea will be implemented. There are many examples of committed people enthusiastically embracing a disastrous innovation. In one of China’s Great Leaps Forward during the reign of Mao Tse Tung, the populace was asked to kill sparrows as they were considered a menace. It undertook the task so vigorously that sparrows were almost driven to extinction there. The results? The people busy killing sparrows didn’t plant crops. What crops were planted were destroyed by insects that were usually eaten by sparrows. There was widespread crop failure and famine.

Thus, single-minded implementation of a bad idea can have tragic consequences. But even in the business world, stupid ideas beautifully executed cost us precious time and money. Remember Scott Paper’s disposable dresses, Crystal Pepsi, or Nullo internal deodorant (yes, you really were supposed to ingest it to remain odor-free). And what about Ford Pintos or the Earring Magic Ken doll—presumably the suitable companion

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