Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How do you sell innovation to current business leaders?

We are in an interesting situation. Businesses that could be investing in innovation are holding onto their cash and waiting to see how the global economy plays out. That’s one explanation. I have another.

There’s an old consulting joke that goes like this:
Question - How many consultants does it take to change a light-bulb?
Answer - The number of consultants is immaterial, the key issue is that the light-bulb has got to want to change!

Let’s unpack the current context:  what have we got?
  • POLITICIANS: Who borrowed irresponsibly to create artificial economic growth & buy elections through unsustainable public service expansion and vanity projects.
  • BUSINESS LEADERS: Who successfully rode artificial growth-curves but don’t know how to grow businesses in a recession.
  • ORGANISATIONS: With Products/ Services & Business Models at the wrong end of the S cash-curve, who are betting their pensions and bonuses on product extensions.

And we have even got CONSULTANTS who can see the need to move out of EFFICIENCY strategies and into EFFECTIVENESS strategies but cannot package a new paradigm & don’t know how to sell it to current leaders, but we either innovate or we die and we cannot borrow our way into growth.
We can sell transactional efficiency, product optimisation process consulting BUT we know that having the right people with the right psychology will make a lot of the KPI architecture completely irrelevant. Unfortunately at the top, we have people (probably not really leaders in the true sense) who can play political games in a growth phase, but who may not be the right people to grow the business in the current environment through innovation.

So how can we sell change in order to innovate to people who don’t understand what it means?  We could possibly begin with the linguistic trick that launched Lean Thinking. The word “lean” was powerful because of the implication that those who didn’t adopt it were fat (organisations). We need a similar linguistic trick that carries a hidden insult for non-consumers to act as a Trojan Horse to begin a literally vital, viral makeover.