You don't understand our context

Over the years I've heard my fair share of excuses on why innovation is so difficult for individuals, ideas and organisations. Most excuses refer to an external factor that they 'can't control'. Regulation, policy, market access, unique customer sensitivities, the list is endless.

Before I get on my high horse to preach, I am happy to admit when I in the wrong, I am happy to concede when I don't fully understand the challenges of a particular market or country. You don't last nearly a decade in innovation without a healthy degree of humility and curiosity. I embrace what I don't know I don't know. Although it's my job to challenge entrepreneurs and enterprises. I am good at my job because I don't accept the excuses.

Challenging the paradigm of a company, industry or country is the core pillar of breakthrough innovation. Unfortunately the vast majority of companies lock themselves in a 'context' prison, dismissing the perspective of outsiders or challengers. It's this very reason many companies being disrupted choose to fight the disruptor, rather than adapt to new market conditions.

The most common excuse is

"You just don't understand the context of our..."

This is especially frustrating when it's expressed in the face of data that challenges that mindset. Market points that illustrate a change in paradigm of an industry's core thesis. Kodak, Blockbuster and Borders were all victims of their own excuses. They failed to accept that core measure of value in their industry could be shifted.

Disruptors don't compete on the incumbent measures of an industry, they look to reverse engineer a social or emotional differentiator that completely changes the game. The technology, any supposed 'unfair' advantage, or alternative commercial model aren't their secret. They just changed how the industry is measured in the eyes of the customer.

Lead innovation with excuses only leads to what I like to call the 'incumbent's prison', a series of walls they construct to justify why they are right not to listen to outsiders, not to change, and more importantly, not to challenge themselves. And it only has one outcome.

My of my biggest rewards when working with corporates, is the moment that shift their paradigm. Break free of the prison their past success has created. It transforms the individuals, and they never go back. They become the challenger, as new ways of operating open their eyes to new approaches, new ideas and new ways of investigating curiosity. These individuals become the catalysts. The future of a company lays in their ability to champion their new paradigm.

If their energy and passion for this new perspective is continually blocked, these golden individuals either fade or leave. And if either happens, I fear for the future of your organisation.

Companies need to champion the individuals that manage to break free of the 'incumbent's prison' and look to replicate their journey.