Recent Events

Innovation in Organizations: The CIL 2012 Keynote

Jane Dysart, Program Chair, and Jeffrey Phillips, Keynote Speaker

The CIL keynote address was an interesting review of innovation, what hinders it in an organization, and how to promote it.  Jeffrey Phillips, VP of OVO, a company that helps organizations to innovate, and author of Relentless Innovation and Make Us More Innovative said that libraries are  full of books that contain new ideas.  They are keepers of the flame of innovation and hold records of innovation.

Here is the major question for innovators:

The following 5 current trends are driving innovation today:

1. Disappearing trade barriers provide access for far more competitors, increase offerings, and increase competition.
2.The rate of change is accelerating exponentially, and attention spans decrease.  Change is inevitable, and the status quo is untenable.
3. Increasing customer expectations mean that we expect more from our products and services.
4. An increasing access to information is giving more people more opportunities.
5. The cost of entry is decreasing; anyone can sell anything to anyone else.

Most organizations are stuck in the mud and pointed in the wrong direction in an antiquated vehicle.  They got there because they have lost the balance between efficiency and innovation.  Focusing exclusively on core competencies,has led to an overemphasis on efficiency and neglect of innovation.

One of the biggest barriers to innovation is Business As Usual (BAU), in which everything is described in detail and ensures that work is done efficiently and effectively.  Managers work to ensure that the BAU operating model is constantly reinforced and that the business operates “on all cylinders”.  Thus, business operations become almost automatic, which leaves no room for innovation.  Here is the result:

The road to innovation is uncertain and risky, making it an enemy of everything the BAU model promotes.  The remedy for this involves several steps:

  • Don’t change the idea; change the process.
  • Improve communication.
  • Change the compensation process so that innovators are compensated on the innovation they did, not solely on their regular job.
  • Change the culture.  Until the culture decides it wants innovation, nothing will happen.
  • Create an “Innovation BAU”.  Middle managers traditionally sustain BAU, and the staff feel like the culture is imposed on them, so they try to work around it.  Middle managers are stuck in the middle and are the only people defending the BAU processes.  They have no time, resources, or skills to innovate, which means that hey must be made champions and given innovation skills.

In summary, here are the important things to remember:

1. Create clear innovation goals and define innovation outcomes.
2. Rebalance tools and skills. Improve innovation skills while maintaining efficiency.
3. Begin to define a process. People need to understand how it will work.
4. Rework culture, incentives, rewards. People will do what they expect they will be rewarded to do.
5. Organizations don’t fight innovation because it is effective; they fight it because it’s different.



  1. Talking Relentless Innovation with Computers in Libraries « Relentless Innovation - March 22, 2012

    […] a link to a recap of my presentation and here’s a link to a short interview after the […]