Does Saying No Hurt Innovation?

February 25, 2009

2035781407_23e1c60febNO. It’s one of the first words we learn, after the occasional “mom”, “dad”, and right in line with “mine”.  It’s a strong word, one that can hurt, offend, and put off.  But does saying no mean that you are not contributing to innovation?

In my mind, the process of innovating in an organization is a mostly positive process.  It takes inspirational leaders, empowered workers, continued discussion, creativity and and constant flow of ideas. Shooting down ideas only hurts the process, because it blocks the way to getting to the right idea.  So, in a sense, when coming up with new strategies, the word “no” may be unnecessary.

But there is another side of innovation.  When companies are struggling to perform at a level of success that they are accustomed to or striving towards, something may be wrong. It may be organizational or administrative, it may be a disconnect between the brand and the consumer, it may be a failing process or product line.  Whatever it is, it takes an innovative focus and strategy to be willing to change something that is not working.  And in that sense, pointing out negatives can be very important.

When an online company is making content too hard to find, saying “our user interface is no good” is important.  When a car company is on the verge of complete failure, saying “we need to get rid of some of these lines” is important.  And when companies are trying to restructure, reorganize, or redevelop certain systems, someone has to have the courage stand up and disagree when necessary.

Not all ideas are good ideas.  Some ideas are too expensive, will take too long, or are just not possible.  Saying the word “no” is a bad way to shoot something down, but we have to be willing to object to things for real innovation to be possible.  If something is not right, say it.  Then we can start the process of fixing it.

Don’t be afraid to disagree.

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Think Innovation, Not Bailout

December 5, 2008

Making headlines today will be the announcement of the decision on whether or not to bailout the US Auto Industry.  What started as a $25 Billion request has turned into a $34 Billion request, and will most likely continue to grow if congress goes with the bailout option.  I read a great quote yesterday that made me think about this issue, saying that if the Big 3 could not handle the money that they earned, how do they expect to handle the money that we give them as a gift.

I am not one to relentlessly praise and uphold the free market, deregulate everything and let the chips fall where they may.  But I do think that when a company, or group of companies, are in danger of failing because of poor business practices, we need to let the market determine their fate.  The automakers have continued to be stubborn, throwing billions away on advertising campaigns, and dismissing the needs to provide more efficient vehicles that consumers have been asking for.

Now, I know that many proponents of the bailout will argue that these companies are simply too big to fail.  The fact that their downfall would affect so many other people is troubling, and the one point that makes me think a bailout is necessary.

But what if we take that money and put it into startups within the industry, or outside the industry?  What if the government would set up a program whereby entrepreneurs and small business owners could submit ideas through a selection process and get government backed loans to grow and develop?  Let others have a chance to succeed where the big 3 have failed.

Help out an innovative battery manufacturer in Toronto gain access to, or start their own, production facility.  Help out the more efficient manufacturers by allowing them to hire more people and expand production.  Help out parts manufacturers, allowing them to upgrade their shops with the latest technology.  Shake up the entire industry, then let the market play out.  New leaders will rise to the top, and soon, if the big 3 are still in business, they will learn to compete in the NEW auto industry.

It’s time to send a message to the various sectors of the economy.  Be smart, practice good business, and grow and develop efficiently.  There will be no more handouts to companies with flawed business practices.  That would be real change, and though it may take awhile to catch on, it would leave us better off in the long run.

I want your opinion.  Check out the poll below:

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