No Company deserves to survive with apathy in its future

The grim reaper of innovationI have always found April a difficult month. It seems to be the defining month for transition between winter and summer. It can fool us on the first day (April fools day) and its weather for us in Europe does exactly the same, usually all month long, confusing us.

One where it is offering up a healthy mix of rain, stronger sun, a little flurry of snow and some heavy wind too.

It can constantly confuse us as it can rapidly alter within the same 24 hours to often keep the heating on, when it should be switched off and visa-versa. It can be an uncomfortable month of adjusting constantly, second guessing of what might be ahead.

On the innovation front I have been experiencing the same feeling of adjusting to uncomfortable days.

First, I was reviewing a report from Accenture, on how US big business was treating their innovation as more left to chance in their report, with my summary here on cloudy execution, my snakes and ladders. This ‘rocked’ some of my beliefs, ones where I thought we actually were making the progress on innovation understanding. It seems this is not the case, we are going backwards and then my month got suddenly worse from a report from Deloittes.

The Deloittes report was on how leadership within Boardrooms under  my”uncharted waters”, was about how our boards are struggling to get their ‘collective heads’ around disruption and how innovation can, or cannot, dig them out of the threats they are facing. They are being disrupted constantly across the business. They are caught between fear and uncertainty on what to do and clearly that is not a comfortable place to be.

Both reports, as I was reviewing them, left me a little depressed to say the least and it just continues… the April weather…. leaving me totally uncertain and then what pops up….

Adding to this innovation reporting mix- Innosight provides a further angst report.

So a further report, this time from Innosight, throws even more angst into the boardroom, adding further into this mix of fear, caution, grim reading on a lack of innovation commitment facing larger organizations. The report from Innosight is in their Spring Insights, called Corporate Longevity: Turbulence Ahead for Large Organizations it just added more worrying news from my perspective on innovation lack of top level progress.

I again buckled up for a further reading of unpredictable innovation resolutions, just like this April weather, all raining down on us from those not heeding, understanding or changing their thinking. In many boardrooms they are not wanting to tackle in fresh ways the future and work towards embracing all the disrupting forces swirling around at present. They seem to want to hold on and not let go of the past .I’m getting really innovation weary from all this

So three reports I thought “oh no”- the grim reaper is truly upon us.

Innosight’s report starts with “We’re entering a period of heightened volatility for leading companies across a range of industries, with the next ten years shaping up to be the most potentially turbulent in modern history.

Reap what you do not sow Mr Boardroom member- uncertain futures, badly invested in

So we all know that 50% of the current S&P 500 will be replaced over the next ten years, didn’t we? Well I did from past readings (clever me) but it is never nice to be reminded again. Not because of its reality but because of the leadership we have in place in many of these organizations is in the denial it will happen to them.

That is what is for me so upsetting. They earn Squillions and screw the long term health of the organization totally up as more often the case, because they were not even focusing on any belief of the future, just taking in the rewards for the immediate present. They could have done something about it but seem incapable to show the level of leadership to achieve this, just why, why is that?

With so much additional disruption coming from technologies, from start-ups, from intense M&A activities and having this ‘being overtaken’ by more agile, quicker growing companies just piles on the pressure within the boardroom but ignoring its threat as “it will not happen to me” without the boldness, decisiveness and intent to reinvent the organization to catch the different ‘waves’ of opportunity is sometimes bordering on criminal, well for me- what about you?.

Innosight in this report has a great passage

“Viewed as a larger picture, the lifespan chart serves as a barometer for marketplace change. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Shrinking lifespans are in part driven by a complex combination of technology shifts and economic shocks, some of which are beyond the control of corporate leaders. But frequently, companies miss opportunities to adapt or take advantage of change. For example, they continue to apply existing business models to new markets, fail to respond to disruptive competitors in low-profit segments, or fail to adequately envision and invest in new growth areas, which in some cases take a decade to pay off”.

This sums it up pretty well for me. We have failures all around us going on due to this lack of imagination, a poor coherent longer-term vision, a lack of confidence to achieve any form of transformation lies within the organization and so it becomes incapable to undertake the transformation that it needed to undertake, due to continually miss the opportunities offered to evolve.

Leadership still lacks real innovation commitment, the linkage to growth, to fending off disruption, of tuning into current and future needs, the message of embracing it has simply not got through to those within the boardrooms; one that the comprehensive management of innovation can offer significant improvements on present performance and they need to fully take hold of it, to learn and leverage, to explore and exploit, in imaginative and breakthrough ways.

Innovation can offer a pathway out of the existing position that many organizations are facing, ones of poor growth, limited sustainability and growing erosion of their existing market positions, often spiraling down, with cutting existing costs seen as the only option. It can be so very different if they wanted to fully engage with innovation. Others are reaping the rewards of their own inabilities in the boardroom to commit the time needed to practice innovation.

The question is “will it change?” If so how, why and when- not with these answers.

The Innosight report points out in the organizations they surveyed of 91 companies with revenue greater than $1 billion across more than 20 industries across the world, the shocking news  that only 24% have a growth strategy with a time horizon of beyond five years, 16.5% report having no formal growth strategy or a growth plan at all as they are seemingly “too busy executing”, “really don’t have time to focus on it” or “we don’t have a good process for formulating a growth strategy that we are confident about”

Then you get the “but of course we are committed to long-term innovation” but it is our “day-to-day decisions that undermine our stated strategy to change” Oh for heavens sake can this really go on? To make substantial change when you are facing the type of change and threats occurring today can easily take up to a decade to fully realize.

So the future continues to be pushed off, growth stays morbid and we resort to simply cutting costs, lowering choice, quality and resources to handle this, we continue to outsource our future to others, who are more than ready to take it on and learn, so as to take your place eventually.

So let the bell toll- let’s say goodbye to 50% of who we know today, you deserve it.

It leaves you utterly sad, even depressed. Innosight offers these thoughts below as a worthwhile thought, when so many of these larger organizations are not heeding or reading about their serious lack of commitment to innovation and the future. They seem apathetic or incapable to comprehend what this eventually means to the future of their organizations.

So Innosight suggests: “Leaders have to confront what might be called tensions, balances, or, even in extreme circumstances, paradoxes. They must optimize today, and discover tomorrow. They must be decisive and bet on moonshots, and defer to experiments. They have to focus, and enable serendipity. They have to leverage the core, and break its constraints”

It seems many just simply do not have the appetite to grow, to look towards the future when their own investment and return is tied mostly to the present.

It just does not seem boards are confident in innovation. There seems a reluctance in wanting to take ownership for innovation, one encouraging and investing more confidently in an evolving/ learning series of experiments to evolve the future of their business in iterative, exploratory ways. It is not a ‘core’ discipline or focal point as innovation continues to have been left to others outside the boardroom. That needs to change.

We are left to judge each company by deciphering ‘the smoke and mirrors’ offered that are claimed to form their “unique” innovation culture, to attempt to determination the staying power and their true belief and undertaking in a future, and make our judgement- mostly it should be yank our money, run like hell, until this future can be well-articulated and well-backed in action.

As companies sadly stick to their historical core as the business, falling to take the risks, invest in the new growth ventures and experiments to build towards a better shot at the future, so I say “just simply go, fade away and leave a puddle as your mess or contribution, and forget the thrill of reinvention and providing a ‘sense of destiny’ and taking pride in exploring more than simply exploiting, often just for your own personal gain

So Goodbye, many of you in leadership positions, as you do not serve innovation well for its potentially exciting future. You are simply letting down the communities, the stakeholders, your customers, our futures, by not heeding all these ‘darker’ messages coming out of Accenture, Deliotte, Innosight and countless others telling you to change or die!

The “Grim Reaper” is knocking on many boardroom doors. Let him cut away the dead wood and we can all move ahead.

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