Dissatisfaction Drives Purposeful Innovation

In our last two posts, we discussed the four factors that lead to successful idea generation and implementation and sensitivity to the market. Today we take a closer look at what motivates leaders and companies to change. Knowing there’s a market need or coming up with a bright idea are both critical steps in the innovation process. But what makes you take the next steps toward execution and risk? “The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.”  - Warren Bennis The sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. The one that requires you to reach down deep inside, be willing to leave everything out there – without knowing if the effort will be enough. Society doesn’t reward defeat, and most history books only document success. Many of us avoid the prospect of failure. In fact, we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t aim for success, settling instead for mediocrity. To many in our success-driven society, failure isn’t just considered a non-option – it’s deemed a deficiency. For many managers, the personal cost of a mistake is greater than the rewards from success, even if the success might change the company forever and create new markets. Why risk a comfortable life if in the end your ideas don’t matter? There’s a natural tendency to avoid risk in favor of the status quo. Once this mindset is prevalent in managerial levels, it will infect the whole organization. Efforts are not enough without purpose. Purpose can change the mindset of a whole organization. Consider the arithmetic of risk: Let’s say you are offered a one in three chance of getting back $10 from a $2 stake. If you have money in the bank, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take that risk. However, if $2 is all you have, the offer is not worth taking. That first $2 is definitely worth more to you than the next $8. Even if the deal might be attractive, it’s not good for your own finances. This is the reality for most managers. But what if you could advance the things that really are important to you if you win the $8. In that case, you might consider taking the risk. That’s why purpose is so important for innovation: One has to succeed in principal ways to succeed at all. “Innovation comes from angry and driven people.” – Tom Peters The innovator is not happy with the status quo. He is impatient for change. And this is a problem for successful companies. The natural satisfaction that people derive from success can lead to complacency, which is the enemy of innovation. This is why innovation begins with leaders who have a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo. The mindset: “We are doing well, but there is much more to be done. We can’t afford to rest on our laurels.” Dissatisfaction with the status quo drives innovation in two ways. It helps find new ways to do things, spurring creativity. And, dissatisfaction with the status quo provides the will to persevere. Restlessness is an invaluable human change driver. So, next time you feel dissatisfied with the way things are, embrace that feeling. It might be the most important motivator to change with purpose.