Innovation means failure. Always has. Management at the vast majority of large, conservative companies serve to minimize failure. Companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have built great platforms because their leaders understand that, to innovate, you have to embrace intelligent risk and uncertainty.
And I’m hardly the only one to notice. Ron Ashkenas writes about the difficulty that managers have innovating on HBR.
What prevents companies from innovating better? One possibility is that managers don’t really want their people to innovate, no matter what they say otherwise. Take time utilization: How many hours per day, week, or month are you encouraged to think creatively, or work on innovation? Companies like 3M and Google that allow employees to carve off a certain percentage of their paid time for innovation are rare. Most other firms want their people to stay focused on today’s business — and only work on innovation in their spare time. So in the end, it’s a mixed message: “We want you to innovate, but only after you’ve done your real job.”
In far too many organizations, management is merely paid to mitigate risk and say no. That doesn’t fly in the Age of the Platform.