Innovation means nothing to me

handwritten sign with money in a wooden dish, company culture, innovation, change, customer-centric


Does this sound familiar?

“Mum, where are you going?”

“There and back, to see how far it is.”


“Dad, where are you going?”

“To see a man about a dog.”

“We’re getting a dog?”


The management has a purpose they can’t (or won’t) reveal or describe, so what do the kids do? Is there time to get the Lego out, or do they just sit and wait for the dog to arrive?

I mean, who lies about getting a dog and then expects people just to get on with it?


“So, son, what did you do while I was out?” (not seeing a man about a dog)

“Well, I didn’t know where you’d gone, what you were doing, how long you’d be, or how I could contribute, so I just sat here and ate cookies.”


“And do you think that was a meaningful use of your time?”

“Frankly, with the data available to me, yes.”


Let’s run the scenario again, and see if it sounds a bit closer to home.

The CEO says, “Change is inevitable. We need to become a customer-centric business. Now go back to your desks and make that happen.”


WTF? We make washing machines/chocolate bars/medicines/pants…how much more customer-centric do you want us to get?

“We need to innovate: be more like Amazon/Uber/Google/Tesla – but I’m still the boss, and I’m doing what I’ve always done.”


Is it any wonder that (when they’re asked), staff responses to blind pronouncements like Our culture needs to change are mostly not very polite?


So, stop right there. Don’t run off to change your culture. Even HR has got bored with that one. You can tell there’s something wrong with an idea when the industry changes the language it uses to describe itself. Like changing ‘HR’ to ‘People Services’.


Try this: base your decision-making process on innovation, and decide what your consumer-focused, strategic direction will be. Announce it, declare it, sing it from the podium every chance you get, and see your company culture change. Watch it become interested, motivated,  purposeful and efficient. Being a part of something challenging but creative gives the whole company a single purpose. If you want to be more like Amazon or Google, this is how you do it.


“Hey kids, let’s all go to the shops and get ice cream on the way back if you’re good.”

“Yay! Let’s go.”


Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.