Performance Management Blog

The Paradox of Resistance to Innovation – Risk and Choice

The global recession pushes more leaders and managers to think about failure and its prevention in many organizations, and not about new possibilities. And innovation becomes more difficult throughout an organization as risk takes on more politically difficult characteristics.

The 2009 Boston Consulting Group Innovation Report observed a “hardening” of innovation difficulty for the third consecutive year. Companies had an increasingly defensive sense of “hanging on and things will be alright,” which is somewhat alarming when viewed competitively in increasingly global markets.

 “Fear is the Mind Killer.”
(from The Dune Trilogy books of Frank Herbert)

A LOT of people feel that they cannot implement workplace improvement ideas

Present innovation thinking is constrained by old histories of implementation and the successes achieved. Often, this anchor to “the good old days,” makes risk taking and innovation even more difficult. Old models of performance management are not sufficient. Given the lag in implementing new strategies in most organizations, it can be years before changes can be accomplished in many of them, if they occur at all. Research by one of my associates shows that executives feel that 90% of their strategy improvement initiatives fail to be successful.

The Boston Consulting Group Innovation 2009 report showed these results:

  • Although a majority of companies rate innovation as a key strategic priority, 21% of North American companies expect to spend less this year.
  • There is widespread dissatisfaction with the ROI in innovation processes. Only 63% of top level executives and 50% of managers / VPs expressed satisfaction with their innovation results.
  • Senior executives are not consistently providing the support that innovation needs. 79% of CEOs believe they do an excellent or above average job, while only 64% of others agree with them!
  • There is no shortage of good ideas – only 17% cited this as a barrier to innovation.
  • The main barriers to increased spending were a risk-averse culture and concern over long development times.
  • Time to Market was very seldom used as a metric to examine the success of innovation, customer satisfaction and overall revenue growth being dominant measures.

Doing nothing is quite hard to do, because of the stress of knowing that you are not yet finished nor are you making progress. Is not moving forward any easier than doing something badly? Isn’t accomplishment a motivator for continuous improvement?

Improving performance is about making choices and considering alternatives to what is presently occurring.

If not you, who? If not now, when?

Help your people make the improvements they want to make. It’s not that difficult AND it is very motivating for them.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of the amazing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game and the Square Wheels facilitation and engagement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced global presenter. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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