Are You Really Committed to Innovate?

So, to help me think about where companies lie in terms of their #innovation chops, I built a simple tool that I call the Innovator’s Matrix. Most companies claim, “We’re committed to innovation!” But the truth is, most of them aren’t. They might say they are. But they’re really not. When you look deeper, you see that they’re really only focused on incremental changes. Doing things a little better, a little faster, a little bit more efficiently, with a little bit better design. That’s not innovation!

So here’s my tool. The vertical axis is all about #vision, about your commitment to investing in the future. Are you forward thinking? Do you have strategies and goals that are investments in the future? Or, are you mostly concerned about the present, about this month, this quarter? Does the tyranny of the urgent overwhelm your commitment to investing in the future?

The horizontal axis is about your commitment to #excellence, to #design. Are you playing it safe? Or are you investing in excellence, in beauty? Is a functional approach more important to you? Just getting the job done. Checking the box? Does design matter to you? Does excellence matter to you?

A lot of companies fall into the lower right quadrant. They have a commitment to excellence, to design, but they’re not visionary. They’re thinking short term. They say very visionary things, but when it comes down to it, they struggle to invest in the future. Maybe the tyranny of the urgent just takes priority. Maybe they don’t have the chutzpah. It’s highly stressful to be in this quadrant because, without real investment in the future, it just becomes harder to compete. These companies are #stressing.

Then there’s the companies that are visionary. They talk a good game. They do have vision, but they don’t understand the importance of design, of excellence. They’re playing it safe. You can see it in their marketing. You can see it in their products. They cut corners. These companies are #surviving. Yes, they can lead a market, but they’re at risk of being disrupted by other companies, companies that are committed to excellence, to design, to beauty.

Then there’s the companies that are both not very visionary AND they’re playing it safe. They’re thinking is short term, and they’re just doing the job every day, checkin’ the boxes. Often they feel secure because, at the moment, they have market dominance. But, the truth is, they’re #stagnating. They will be disrupted unless they move to another quadrant.

Finally, the innovators. These companies are visionary. They’re committed to the future and they invest in it. Truly. They don’t just talk about innovation. They practice it. They’re always launching new products, always experimenting, always pushing the limit. But not carelessly, not just randomly. And whatever they do, they do it well. They’re famously committed to great design, to great experiences, to excellence. These companies are #innovating!

And, by the way, they hire innovators.

Related: A Good Partnership Can Be the Future to Innovation