Large organisations are usually very slow to react to new ideas. There is, of course, an upside to this: it serves well in risk mitigation. Everything that is done that is outside the norm is second and even third-guessed before being embraced or discarded.
My article last week, Innovation: Why the ‘outrigger’ model worked for IBM, explained how IBM overcame its internal inertia in developing the PC in record time. At least IBM understood the problem. My past article, Mitigating pushback: The opportunity killer, also addresses this issue.
However, there is also a great risk that organisations, or more likely people within them, take advantage of this inertia as it can allow them to keep their “heads below the parapet” and stay largely invisible as they collect their monthly salaries.
This approach is relatively safe, involves no career risk for the individual and maintains the status quo.
But what opportunities are foregone?
Management reporting is aimed at keeping senior management, and particularly the CEO, informed as to how the organisation is functioning according to known norms. Such norms may be sales revenue, profitability, headcount, productivity, debtors and the like. But what of non-reported activity?
For example: what if an employee is approached from an outside party with some new innovative initiative which that employee has neither the vision nor experience to see the potential? Or worse still, is too comfortable with the status quo to bother. The opportunity may well be lost.
Experience has shown that this is more often than not the case.
A case in point
Below is an email exchange between one party in a large company and an outside entrepreneur trying to get traction within this company for an opportunity that could completely transform the business.
In failing to capture the interest of the employee, the entrepreneur tried to make contact with the company CEO. Unfortunately, the call was intercepted by the CEOs PA and without the CEO seeing it, ultimately it found its way to the initial contact.
The following is the email exchange that followed: (Names and places have been changed to protect the parties involved)
As per our conversation yesterday, we do not see this as a new product opportunity for our business. As I stated yesterday, our business is not into the infrastructure or XXX markets where such systems are predominantly used. In the markets that we service, there is little demand for XXX systems. As such this potential product is not the focus of this company.
I have heard that even after this conversation, you are still calling our company touting your product idea. As we have made our position clear, can you please cease and desist from calling us.
The entrepreneur’s reply: