Why the Mission of Being the Leader in Innovation is a Ladder on the Wrong Wall



The urgency of innovation

Have you noticed since the beginning of Covid the urgent need for innovating escalating at a maddening pace? From product/service delivery to digitalization to supply chain to employee experience. You name it. Every single thing needs to be reimagined and redesigned.

In small part, this crisis of innovation was the result of Covid. However, for most, the urgency of Covid has passed, but the pace of innovation urgency and its accompanying exhaustion has not subsided.

In its rapid rise to the pinnacle of success for businesses, being the "leader in innovation" has left a trail of broken carnage. Leading companies are bleeding critical market share that kept them at the top. Executives are falling to their death. Employees are running for their lives in the great resignation. Everywhere you look in business, innovation has pushed us to the brink and sadly many to the point of no return.


The means, not the mission

But, Karen, you may be thinking - if we don't innovate, we won't exist. So true, it's not a matter of innovation being important. It is essential. So important, I've bet my career on it. But most have veered off course. No longer is innovation the means to a corporate mission; innovation has become the mission. As Robin Sharma, author of The 5 am Club, puts it.


"What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny."

There in lies the problem. Innovation is open-ended, continuous, and ever-evolving. But it is evolving to what end? There is no end, really. Innovation, by definition, is unlimited possibilities. 🛑 Read that again. 🛑 There is no end to innovation. There is always way more to innovate. Is there any wonder why executives (and their employees) feel like there are going in a million different directions? Frazzled from the long to-do list but never feeling accomplished at anything. Making a dent in something unlimited is a fool's errand—like a ladder leaning on a wall that goes nowhere. Forced to keep climbing as the rungs of accomplishment disappear beneath your feet. Forever climbing.


Stop the insanity

There is a lot at stake in this error of focus. Corporations' ability to create stakeholder value is on shifting sand and everything that supports it. Namely, humans are what keeps it stable, and humans are suffering. As mentioned above, humans from the C-suite to the frontline suffer greatly. To stop this insanity requires a course correction. In a nutshell, executives' view of innovation needs to change.


Innovation is not a purpose-driven mission. Innovation is the means to a purpose-driven mission. -Karen Zeigler

Back to basics

Once we understand this, we can return to basics. Why are we here? Why is any business started or exists? We exist to make the world a better place. So, in design thinking terms, "how might we design a more beautiful world?" It's not about the latest cause but the original call. Whether your corporation makes household products that keep homes healthy and clean or a truck parts company that keep trucks on the road delivering those goods across the country, there is great value in that mission. Unfortunately, due to society and the innovative hamster wheel we've all climbed onto, we have been convinced that the next shiny object (innovation) is more exciting than the original mission.


Yet search Tiktok, Youtube, or Google for house cleaning or truck engine repair, and you can find some pretty passionate and creative entrepreneurs. People that get excited about finding new ways to share their obsession with cleaning or creating a healthy and happy home. Truckers who share their nomad lifestyle and the ups and downs of keeping a rig on the road. Why aren't those passionate individuals working inside companies like Proctor and Gamble or Truck Pro?

Unmet needs

Those passionate individuals no longer work at those companies because their needs went unmet. And with the relentlessly escalating pressures of innovation, they are leaving with the great resignation or quiet quitting while they work on their exit strategy. The challenge of today's leaders is to begin to meet those needs. 😩 But how!?! First, recognize that the needs come down to three basic needs

  1. The need to have their voices heard (diversity)

  2. The need to be treated justly and with respect (equity)

  3. The need to feel they and their unique gifts belong (inclusion)

Second, realize that their needs are not opposed to your needs for organizational success. As Zig Ziglar always said, "You Can Have Everything in Life You Want if You Will Just Help Enough Other People Get What They Want." And you're likely still asking, but how? So glad you asked. To keep this blog reasonable, I want to personally invite you to explore the solution in my upcoming workshop. If you're ready to return to normal, to refocus on the people and the work that matter most and use innovation as a means to that mission then join me for the Unlock the Gold Workshop. 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻




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