Disruption is something we are all going to face. Even the traditional delivery of the bible is under attack. Some churches are even embracing the use of mobile devices to enhance in-church worship as well as engagement with the church. If innovation can be embraced here, you need to do the same in yours. If you don’t disrupt your business through innovation now, you will be disrupted into a smaller and smaller revenue share. Remember Smith Corona? Most people don’t.
If you are in the Bible publishing business, YouVersion has gutted your mainline business. Offering translations of the Bible for free to users through their mobile device, publishers are exchanging physical dollars for mobile cents. Those that are embracing this trend are realizing revenue in different means, such as offering more expensive versions. The bottom line is that this disruption and digital technology will lead to the removal of several of the players.
So if you agree with me that disruption is going to happen and you are not all that happy being disrupted out of business, what can you do. You can start doing it yourself. You have smart people all over your organization. They understand your business, your industry. Allow non-traditional thinking, reward properly, and embrace the change.
The Two Types of Innovation
Innovation has been used so much these last few years that it has gained buzzword bingo center space status. There are perhaps two major areas of innovation that are repeatedly talked about are incremental and revolutionary. For the purposes of this post we will talk about revolutionary innovation, or disruptive innovation. Incremental innovation, in my mind is the thing that should be occurring every day. It is everyone’s responsibility to identify areas where processes can be improved to reduce fat. You may think that a process improvement that saves 30 seconds per operation is nothing. For companies in mass production, 30 seconds per operation multiplied by 10,000 operations a year, equates to 80 hours of work. Not so nothing now.
Incremental innovation is important. Your people are always thinking of ways to make their work life better. If someone feels pain every day, they will have thought of ways to remove it. The problem most organizations have is getting people to talk the right way, and then listening. Since we are talking about rewards, it seems the best way to reward this innovation is extrinsic, such as monetary rewards.
The paradox though is that what works for incremental innovation does not work for disruptive innovation. Having experienced this myself, I can agree with it. Extrinsic motivation may be useful to spur innovation, but it is not long lasting for the stuff that is new to your company and new to the world.
Getting to Disruptive Innovation
There are those of us that gravitate towards revolutionary things. The early adopters and innovators. If you subscribe to Everett Rogers’ theory of Diffusion of Innovations, early adopters and innovators only comprise 15.5% of the population. If you have these folks in the right positions, you should be listening to them. Even better is to have them spread across your entire organization, but providing them a way to collaborate. Some companies call these Tiger Teams, Alpha Teams, Cross-Discipline Teams, Matrixed, etc. You will see a bump in creativity when you first bring these people together. The psychology proves this out, because merely being asked to participate is a form of intrinsic motivation – recognition. The problem comes when that is all you do.
Disruptive innovation is not going to happen in the short term. You might get lucky, but disruptive innovation is something that will happen over the long term. It will also happen in its own time. The more you push your people to disruptively innovate and expect results, the more disappointed you will be. There is a corollary in the invention space. You need approximately 50 inventions to find The One.
The problem with this is that over the long term your people may lose their motivation if you don’t cultivate it. Participation in efforts will typically be outside of their normal job duties. You may be asking yourself, “what about research and development teams?” My thought is that they are generally unable to find truly disruptive innovation. Their leaps sometimes may feel disruptive, but they are not.
While monetary, or extrinsic, rewards work for incremental innovation, you need intrinsic rewards to incent disruption. The seminal work, at least in my opinion, is Dan Pink’s book Drive. Here are two videos for you to watch about motivating employees. You can apply his teachings to disruptive innovation.
Dan’s TED Talk
RSA Animation of Dan’s TED Talk
Disruption is a foregone conclusion in my mind. I have talked about it before:
How to get there at your brand before you are disrupted is the question. Long term appetite for this effort is one key. The other key is properly motivating people. You need to understand the psychology of motivation and apply it to your people. Also be open to changing your own tactics and modifying your efforts as needed. Not easy, but worth the effort.