Innovation is a noun, not a verb

I’ve at last got around to starting to read Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. I like it a lot.

I’m also involved at the moment in planning for an event that we’re running on the subject of innovation in organisations that I’ll be MCing next month (as an aside, places are limited, but if you are interested in attending then do drop me a line). As a result, the next passage was particularly resonant for me:

‘…we remind ourselves of our (organisation) values by writing them on the wall … as nouns. Integrity. Honesty. Innovation. Communication, for example. But nouns are not actionable. They are things. You can’t build systems or develop incentives around those things. It’s nearly impossible to hold people accountable to nouns. “A little more innovation today if you would please, Bob.

It’s not “innovation” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.”‘

And therein lies the major challenge for many organisations, because they align themselves too closely with a “problem” that is tied to a set of products and services, rather than to an overriding purpose. As Sinek expresses it earlier in the book, the biggest corporations in the USA in the 19th Century, the railroads, became obsolete in the 20th because they saw themselves as providing train services, not mass transportation, and were therefore blindsided by the rise of the airline industry.

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