The Dark Side of Innovation Initiatives

Fascinating new projects are conceived, senior leaders get pumped, game plans are drawn up, but no one gives the "worker bees" any more time to devote to the newly launched projects.
11/17/2014 02:07 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Most newly launched corporate innovation initiatives have a dark side, a not-much-talked-about shadow side -- the metaphorical alcoholic-father-in-the-basement side.

And it is this: fascinating new projects are conceived, senior leaders get pumped, game plans are drawn up, but no one gives the "worker bees" any more time to devote to the newly launched projects. They are, in effect, expected to shoehorn their new, game-changing efforts into their already overloaded schedules.

Bottom line, aspiring innovators' day jobs end up colliding with newly launched innovation initiatives and mayhem ensues.

People either get cranky, triangulate to third parties, spend way too much time explaining the newly launched innovation project to their managers, burn out or else go into Defcon-7 martyrdom-mode -- all behaviors that do not bode well for the individual, the company or its customers. And while every company DOES have a few superstar self-starters who dive in with both feet and a heigh ho silver, this is not a formula for sustainable innovation.

The solution?

Either redistribute workloads, offer "innovation project sabbaticals," or provide your front line innovators with enough support services to unclutter their minds, ease their way forward and allow them the time to focus on the innovation job-at-hand without frying.

If you don't, expect nothing but a whole lot of chaos, unfulfilled expectations, broken promises and the kind of innovation backlash you wish you hadn't unleashed.

Mitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, an innovation consulting and training company based in Woodstock, NY. His Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere.