Thursday, March 07, 2013

Chapter 6: I Wouldn't Have Started from Here

There's no such thing as a free lunch...

You can download "Who Killed The Sparq?" as a free ebook.

As long as you promise to return and leave a comment below... or blog or tweet about it... or email

Click here...


"Creativity is to Innovation what Beef is to Tournedos Rossini: just a starting point"
Christophe Gillet
Chapter 6
I Wouldn’t Have Started from Here


Previous chapters:
Chapter 1: The End
Chapter 2: Ideas Lost
Chapter 3: Who Killed the Sparq?
Chapter 4: Mother of Invention
Chapter 5: If You Don't Mind, I'll Have Your Watch Please

‘Take me through this again; you say your organisation needs desperately to deliver more with less? And innovation is the route?

I nod in response to each question. ‘And we need to become far more creative,’ I reply.

‘And yet somehow the people in your organisation are not moving fast enough to re-imagine what they do, how they do it and who they do it with or for?

I nod enthusiastically. It’s not exactly how I would have put it but it’s close enough. ‘I know it sounds as if our people are unaware of the challenge of becoming more creative. I mean it’s not as if they haven’t been told.’

‘What do you mean, “Told”?’ he asks, brow furrowed.

‘Well, after our CEO announced his intentions to the analysts he made a company-wide announcement telling people clearly what was expected of them.’

Franck grins broadly and unexpectedly, leans back in his chair and almost guffaws as he says, ‘You mean he told them he expected them to be creative?’

‘Yes,’ I reply slowly, confused at his reaction, ‘and stated the goal of being the sector leader. He said that he was encouraging them to take risks. He said that he expected people to fail. He also announced that consultants would be helping us to establish an innovation process.’ I finish firmly.

Franck’s smile has subsided. He looks subdued if slightly sick. ‘Will you allow me to gaze into my crystal ball and tell you what I think has happened since?’ he offers.

‘Yeah. Sure,’ I reply, perplexed. What a strange offer. How can he possibly know what has happened in our organisation? He’s never even visited us and nothing’s been published in the news.

He begins. ‘For a start, the level of cynicism of staff, especially middle ranking staff in your organisation has risen immensely. Most people are finding all sorts of reasons why it is not possible to come up with anything new. The only ideas which are coming through are people’s favourite old ones which have been out in the daylight and shelved several times before. In fact, they often present what has been standard practice for years in one or other of your pre-merger organisations as if it’s a “great new idea”.’

He is watching me closely as he speaks, searching my face for a reaction to see if his guesses are correct. I’m giving nothing away.

‘The only “newish” ideas are coming from people who are relatively new to the organisation and are effectively versions of normal practice in their previous jobs, and anyway they don’t fit customer needs, the stated business strategy or the capability of your organisation to execute them. The few ideas which have made it through your new, “consultant-inspired” innovation process are finding it difficult to justify even the investment you have made in them so far, let alone more.’

By now I’m finding it difficult to remain poker-faced.

‘All the people you had been hoping would help to lead the implementation of the new innovation process are suddenly very busy with client management and revenue generation activities. To top it all, no one is sticking their neck out at all. In fact, the level of “cover your anatomy” e-mails that are circulating around the organisation is severely challenging the bandwidth of your intranet connections. Everyone is right behind the initiative but far enough behind to have lost touch.’

I’ve lost the game of poker. My face shows it. My jaw is slack, my forehead slightly shiny from perspiration and I look stunned. Each statement he made felt like being smacked in the mouth. I feel the pain of the past months sharply. He’s absolutely right. Every single statement describes what’s happened in the past few months. But how does he know? How does he know all this has happened to me? I haven’t said anything about what’s happened. And if it’s all so obvious to him why didn’t we know that it was going to happen? I can’t find any words.

Franck’s observing me closely like a hawk about to pounce on a poor unprotected rabbit. He is taking in my expressions and reaction to his words.

‘How do you know all this?’ I ask. ‘Do you know someone else in our company?’

He smiles warmly. ‘No I don’t. The reason I can predict what is happening to you is because I’ve seen the same pattern elsewhere in other organisations. You see, I’ve been trying to understand the paradox of innovation for some time. With the level of change and global competition, every business enterprise and corporation wants it. With many governments insolvent and an urgent need to deliver services to their citizens without spending money, many Governments want it. With the super-wealthy unable to find anything to buy or invest in at their scale except more assets which generate value but no real wealth. Everybody seems to want it. Everybody seems to need it. Everyone seems to have a process for it. Over seventy thousand books have been written about it. And yet there is so little of it about!

I can’t think of a suitable reply.

Franck waits patiently for a moment for me to respond. Eventually he says, ‘From the look on your face, I would guess you need another cup of tea or something stronger, but I think it’s going to have to be tea,’ and without my confirmation he waves energetically at the waitress.

This is taken from the manuscript of Prof Eddie Obeng's new book Who Killed the Sparq? We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Want to read more?

Chapter 7: Weeding Out the Weaklings
Chapter 8: Still Hunting and Gathering


Post a Comment

<< Home