Innovation – the valuable disruptive kind that changes the future and creates fortunes – is borne of chaos. It can’t be a tidy, orderly process. Some wandering and confusion are vital; ideas and technologies the “experts” would dismiss at a stroke must be stumbled through (sometimes genius is discovered in that space between stumbling and falling flat on our faces). Attempts to suppress the mess will destroy the initiative. Every time.
Christensen teaches us with clarity and certainty that companies can’t get beyond everyday sustaining innovation precisely because they are organized to suppress chaos. So no matter how noble the calling, how enticing the Big Idea, how plush the office from which the “mandate” originated, the effort to identify, explore, validate and grow the craziness of Disruptive Innovation is always dragged down by the hounds of corporate order and control.
And this is true even when Chesbrough’s internal OI disciples are tasked to make and contain the messes. Those departments still have to convince those on the other side of the fence to eventually join in the glorious mess of Disruptive Innovation. The problem is caused by the belief that the process has to be tidied up before the learning can be shown to future stakeholders not involved in the mess-making. Learning is stifled, buy-in retarded, potential co-conspirators turned away. Ideas die.
So what to do?
Simply export the chaos.
There is no shortage of potentially good seed corn for game-changing initiatives inside most companies. Most people are wired to have ideas which could, just maybe, change the outcome of the game. But no matter how influential that person is, they won’t get their ideas through the necessary chaos to a state of order which allows them to enter the corporate commercialization structure. And even if they try, they first have to fight battles of “my idea is better than your idea”.
Today it’s smart to just stick to business and partner with companies like IP2Biz. We get up every day excited by the coming chaos which has been put on our plates by our clients. We love to get bloodied by the messy process of finding a path to that epiphany when the fog lifts, the din of the battle subsides, and clarity emerges from the gazillion bits of information created during the work. We know how to take a portfolio of early ideas, assess likely priorities, unearth the technologies no one else could see, confirm their validity and demonstrate that they will – one day soon – make good commercial sense for our clients.
In the seven years we’ve been at this business of launching potentially great but risky ideas, we’ve gotten pretty good at wading into the constructive chaos of Disruptive Innovation, identifying the valuable bits, cleaning them up and delivering them to our clients in a way that stakeholders inside recognize as relatively safe and actionable. Precisely because we are external partners working closely with internal stakeholders, we can bring speed, objectivity, thoroughness and confirmation to their side of a chaotic process. We celebrate the chaos, not suppress it.
Clients tell us that exporting the chaos allows them to engage around ideas and possibilities which were impossibilities before. The valuable mess and risk taking is still there, it just happens in our shop, so it doesn’t get quashed. Permanent, profitable change emerges.