Recently I read an excerpt from a new business innovation book wherein the author went to great lengths to instill the need to provide sufficient resources for every innovation effort, without which the effort would be almost certain to fail. The cited leadership's frequent failure to ensure adequate resources as the single most important reason for innovation failures.
Hogwash! Not only is the author wrong, his perspective is downright dangerous to the heart of the innovation effort. Frequently when addressing a client's desire to instill greater innovation within their organization, I will define a strategy that purposely restricts access to resources. Why? Simple. When we are faced with severe limitations, most groups either quickly give up or wade into the fray determined to succeed despite the their circumstances.
When I think of difficult, in fact, perilous circumstances, my mind turns to the Apollo 13 near disaster. You will recall that following an onboard explosion enroute to the moon, Houston Ground Control was faced with several problems. First, was how to turn the spacecraft around and head it back to earth. The next arose a few days later when the crew began to suffer carbon dioxide poisoning. In response to this second dilemma and his engineering staff's analysis that no in flight repair was possible given the crew's available resources, the Flight Director gathered the engineering team together. He placed them in a room with only the equipment which the crew had onboard, which he unceremoniously dumped onto the table from several sacks and told them they had just hours to design a solution that the crew could replicate. He also told them that failure was not an option.
The result? With only minutes of oxygen remaining, the engineering team talked the astronauts through the construction of carbon dioxide scrubbers, fabricated from a sock, a carbon filter cartridge of the wrong size, a few other odds and ends and a roll of duct tape. This innovation saved the lives of the three crew members and possibly the future of the Apollo program.
Copyright 2005 by John Di Frances.
John Di Frances is an internationally recognized organizational
legacy expert and motivational