Several years ago, at the Transform Innovation Summit at the Mayo Clinic, Roger Martin gave a moving talk about what kills and what drives innovation. In the talk, which he called a rant, he suggested that the two words- prove and it- when used together, are innovation killers. He provided several powerful examples in the talk, which I recommend that everyone should watch.
Roger suggests that, because so much of corporate decision making today insists that the outcome of initiatives, projects, ventures be known and provable before they even begin, it becomes virtually impossible for firms to actually create new and emergent forms of value. “We would love to do that,” the thinking goes, “but we are too busy and have too many immediate things to do to take such a big risk.”
This is just excuse making. Which leads to my own rant of the day. I am convinced, after working with organizations and business school students for many years, that many (perhaps most but I hate to be so negative) corporate decision makers are more interested in maintaining a general sense of order and control over their social universes than they are in actually driving success and excellence in the firms they run. To some extent this makes perfect sense. None of us likes to be surrounded by chaos and uncertainty. It would be easier to accept, though, if timid managers acknowledged, truthfully, that these are the grounds of their objections. The tired, worn-out discourses about risk management and decision “sciences” are harder and harder to believe. Just come out and say it like it is: “I would rather run the company at a suboptimal level of performance than embrace those actions and practices that will make us great.”
I Can’t Prove It
This dynamic/delusion is relevant to the bold initiative that we are launching at Conjunctured. We know, pretty much without much question (though we can’t prove it in the way many corporates insist on), that today’s young knowledge workers aspire to work in environments that emphasize maximum choice and flexibility, doing work that is meaningful and makes the world a better place. It turns out that this is pretty much what’s going on in the world of coworking. If you plop coworking into a large corporate organization, what you get is corporate coworking. While I can’t prove it, I am nearly certain that most of your employees would love to work in a space like the one we have at Conjunctured, and that in this they would be more engaged with their work and their colleagues.
But if that generates too much cosmological chaos, I guess I understand. If, on the other hand, you want ‘to boldly go’ where your employees want to go, then there are solutions and pioneers out there to help you get there.