Do You Want Innovation or a Dirty Martini?

I’ve been following some interesting posts lately by Paul Hobcraft regarding management engagement in Innovation. Paul’s posts have a lot to do with the concept of engagement. It inspired the attached cartoon.

I think many high level executives simply don’t know what they have. Until it’s too late.

There are a lot of smart people out there, with great ideas. Talent is something you need if you really want to innovate. And yet, really, most organizations already have that talent. No, not every employee is Jony Ives and is an impact player at that level, but nearly every company has some people that, under the right circumstances, can hit home runs (score goals, set records, win gold, etc.). Ives himself was locked in a closet before Steve Jobs found the key.

In my travels doing talks and such I often have a chance to chat with line workers and middle managers who are beyond frustrated. They have ideas, they have energy, they care about the company — and none of that goodness is being channeled towards innovation. In fact, it’s being actively supressed in some cases.

It’s interesting that often the highly talented creative types, hired specifically for innovation, leave after a short tenure. Why? They often aren’t allowed to do anything and are forced into the box with everyone else. The best people are the first to jump a sinking ship — they have choices. The best talent really has a desire to create and you limit that at your peril.

C-suite types, hear this, if you knew  how much talent is wasting away right under your nose, you’d cry in your martini.

Don’t believe it? Ask. Ask a sampling of your people the simple question — where are the hidden gems around here? You’ll find out things you didn’t know. People with secret projects, big ideas they’ve been holding back, crazy ideas that just might work…

Want to turn the situation around? Ask another question — what’s holding you back?

Then, kind people, do something to get people out from under and creating. It might mean breaking up teams and forming new ones. It might mean firing a bad manager, it might mean new policies, less rules, more time. It might mean, gulp, saying yes to a risky project now and then. It might mean supporting people with real vision, maybye even better than your own.

So, if you’re not good at the innovation thing, empower people. Then get out of the way.

In time you’ll be drinking with people celebrating success and not dropping salty tears into your dirty martini.

Posted in Cartoons by Gregg Fraley, Humor, Innovation, Leadership