06 January 2011

Innovation Hurts

Everyone loves innovation. It sounds uber-fun, exciting and desirable. We're all supposed to be innovating in innovative ways, developing new ways to do new things with new tools... at least if we want to be among the 1337.

What most people don't ever tell you is that innovation hurts. If you're doing it right, innovating in ways that are truly, well, innovative, it's going to rub your friendly neighborhood Defenders of the Status Quo the wrong way. They won't like it, and chances are they'll respond by doing things you don't like. Ironically, these are often the same people who insist they want more innovation... they just don't want the kind of innovation that involves actual change. And so they trigger the Corporate Immune Response, which beats down any new ideas. That generally hurts.

Then there's the sheer effort involved in real innovation. It hurts like running a marathon hurts (or, in my case, like a half-marathon hurts) - I guess it's a hurt-so-good kind of thing, but pain is pain.

The first type of pain (i.e. the Corporate Immune Response) is probably the worst, since it's externally induced. Personally, I find self-induced discomfort, like running 13.1 miles, more manageable. But I suppose that could differ from person to person.

While the Status Quo Defenders can often make life uncomfortable for innovators, there is something profoundly cool about being punished for doing the right thing. For what it's worth, I think innovation is generally in the "do the right thing" category. Even though it's the worst kind of discomfort, it may also be the coolest.

Anyway, I'm sort of surprised this topic doesn't show up more often in the various books and articles about innovation. The phrase "innovation hurts" isn't exactly a googlenope, but most search results point to articles with titles like "Lack of innovation hurts..." Hardly anyone talks about the fact that innovation itself can hurt.

Change the search words to "innovating hurts" and you get exactly two results. They're both from a report from a 2008 Poultry Innovations Conference (seriously?) that assures its readers they have nothing to fear from innovation because "none of [the conference speakers] said innovating hurts!" Seems to me even the Poultry Innovators aren't getting the whole story.

Yeah, innovation is fun. It's exciting. It's important. But it's not all donuts-with-sprinkles and unicorn farts. There's real pain involved with innovation. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

One last observation: those first google results are right. Yes, innovating hurts, but not innovating hurts even more...

1 comment:

Phil said...
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