Netflix. Uber. Airbnb. Tesla. Fisker. Most economies would kill to have a set of innovators such as these. And yet at every turn, these companies are running headlong into regulation (or lack thereof) that seems designed to benefit incumbents.
Most would agree that innovation is everyone's responsibility, but employees can't innovate unless their leaders empower them to do so. Innovation needs a champion within the organization to push them to take calculated risks.
For conceptual artists or entrepreneurs, the secret to becoming a serial innovator was famously given by Monty Python: make one discovery... And Now for Something Completely Different. Picasso, Dylan, and Jobs all wanted more than just fame and fortune.
When innovation comes to mind, the first thing people may think of is creativity, spontaneity, or a momentary stroke of genius. But can innovation occur out of a structured, repeatable process? The answer, in short, is yes.
A team is needed to execute a marketing strategy and apply lessons on how to sell an idea, but it's not always necessary for a team to create and innovate. It is the innovation champion who must carry out and sell his or her idea. Do you nurture your organization's innovation champion?
Innovation is, of course, a great thing and a true differentiator for successful enterprises. "Innovate or die" is a useful general principle if you plan to thrive in the 21st century. But there are plenty of times where talking innovation constitutes a smoke screen.