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Innovate or Perish

The Essen

tial List

Growth. Sustainability. Scalability. What are you chasing?

Whatever be your challenge - a culture of ‘innovation’ covers it ‘all’.

I read a book ‘principles of innovation’ - but innovation, can it have principles???

And so i started writing my own list of tactics for innovation. A list that i believe is imperative (IMPERATIVE) to creating a consistently innovative organisation. This is about building an overall mechanism and culture for innovation. You might use some and you might discard some. I’ll tell you one thing that ‘culture of innovation’, a culture of shocking the world will be built by using them all. The absence of any of the following, weakens the others and kills the culture.....

Use this as you may...

Do.Do.Do. Now. Fast. Make Mistakes. Fast. Do. Again. Fast.

1- An unbelievable fact - Innovation is a numbers game. He who tries more stuff - wins.

2- The Try It NOW Culture - Emphasis on effort. Try now, talk later. “We’ll talk when we got something to show, but till then we’ll keep trying.”

3- Failure celebrated. Fast failure, rather discovery and acceptance of fast failure is key to innovation. Fast failure is key to fast turnaround is key to fast success. Period.

4- No walls. No barriers. No secretaries. No floors. No corner offices..... Communication and accessibility must be as easy and welcome as breathing.

5- Culture of ‘not at desk’ but ‘wandering around’... Innovation is about spontaneity. And spontaneous ideas don’t pop out of this screen you are glued to.

6- Speed of decision making and implementation. That is trying. Speed from though to attempt is key to sustaining innovation culture. Nothing discourages an innovator more than procrastination.

7- At your annual retreat have an award for the ‘most valuable screw-up’.... so people know its ok to fail as long as you try...

8- Be LEAN.... More the designations and layers of management = Less the innovations. 100% of the time.


9- Innovation is not ‘lets all have a blast’.... Dreaming with a deadline and budgeting till the milestone is as important to the culture for the organization to sustain innovation. Can’t just be a freak-show.

10- Yes, screwing-up is essential for innovation but the thinker must take responsibility for screwing-up, capture learning and back to action. Fast. It is not the screwing up that should trouble you as management. Its the blaming you should address at the first sign of appearance. Kill it.

11- Change the name of your senior management team to the team of execution and redefine expectations to one word - Execution.

Its a Body Of People

12- We are who we exist with. Are their weird, crazy, mad people around. If not, then you guys hanging out with each other talking politics, cricket and org gossip will not be innovation anytime during your lifetime. Get people to hang around the right people. MOST IMPORTANT.

13- Simple rule. Hang out with the challengers - Get challenged. Hang out with the dull and boring - get dull and boring.

14- Customers everywhere. You are innovating for him, right?? Customers at meetings, team meetings, awards, project teams..... everywhere.....

15- Benchmark carefully and insanely..... Shift the lens.... You benchmark within the industry, you will worry about being 10% better. That will not lead to innovation, that will lead to better management. Benchmark against parallels anywhere. Benchmark with landing the man on moon and create an equivalent, now we’re talking!!

16- Company HO is important. As hard as it may be for you to believe, for those at HO, please get out of there, Breakthroughs of the world are occurring outside your corner office.

17- Types of consultants you engage will influence how you approach problems. If you are stuck with the big four, you are stuck with the problems of everyone in your industry.... Rethink...

18- Invest in building a knowledge network. Become a university. Make it fast. Make it fun. Research. Document. Teach. Learn. Unlearn.

19- Don’t waste your lunch. Lunch is 5 opportunities a week and 220 opportunities a year. Lunch with customers, vendors, people from other departments, frontline staff..... Lunch as a culture around these is not amusing, its essential.

20- Don’t waste your meetings. Most likely most of your time goes in meetings. Don’t waste meetings. Invite crazy outside perspectives to every meeting. Get challenged.

HR = Supercool

21- Hire Enthusiasm. Staff, management or partners, hire enthusiasm. Throw the CV. Get to the heart. Enthusiasts is almost a synonym for innovators. Or at least the non-enthusiasts are guaranteed to not innovate.

22- Young = Tomorrow. Old = Yesterday. Are there exceptions to the rule? Sure. But not many!!) Dig deeeep for key promotions!

23- Promote enthusiasm. Enthusiasm as bosses is a no brainer. now look around and figure. Also beware enthusiasm is not equal to mindless extroversion. Enthusiasm can be silent too. But you’ll know it when you see it.

24- How do you measure performance? Are efforts given consideration or is it just the growth? This one parameter will determine whether employees will try for ‘new’ or settle to give you the ‘old’.

25- Once an innovator, always an innovator. Simple test. See what all your candidate has done, experimented, tried, failed at and experimented again. A usually ‘sexy’ resume doesn’t have all this!!!!

26- Incentive schemes must scream the word - innovation. Yes profit is essential. And a Bigger YES, innovation is absolutely essential to exploding profits.

27- Launch a column called ‘excellent failures’ to include it in your employee appraisal. Give it at least a 20% weightage.

28- Black. White. Brown. Purple. Tall. Short. North. South. East. West. Asian. American. African. He. She. Public School. Private School. No School. College. Grad. Drop out. Diversity Is A Game Changer By Itself.

29- Women in exec-team. Women in every team by design. This is not some ‘social responsibility’ project. Its a must for innovation. I can write a whole article on why women but I’ll give you a reason here - Women purchase a half of all consumer and commercial products. And Women decide for half of the men too. So thats 75%. This is not something I have made up. It is researched figures.

30- I am an enemy of mergers. They don’t work. 99% of them don’t. But innovation loves small acquisitions that bring in a new wave of enterprise. A 2-person accounting firm with passion, a 10-person hr recruitment firm with expertise, a one-man sales training brilliance.... you get the point....

31- Celebration builds innovation culture. Large, small, very small, even an irrelevant achievement is a big deal for someone else. Celebrate it.

32- Celebrate failures. Remember fast failure is the blood supply for innovation. It is critical. Don’t make the mistake of making failure a mistake.


33- Customers are the ears of innovation. Listen. But lead too. Its not about slavish listening. But understanding before being understood.

34- Customers on all teams. Especially the innovation crack teams.

35- The most valuable group - the angry pissed-off customers. They are the ones with the highest expectations. Thats what you are innovating for, anyway.


36- Innovations fail, not because of the idea, but because of lack of cross functional collaboration. Be obsessed to create a culture that makes it a design to continuously interact with other functions.

37- Cross Functional Innovators, for example, a sales innovation project, in its team must have people representing all other functions.

38- Cross Functional Friendships. Institutionalise this. Friendships across functions is your best strategy yet. Foster it. Formally.

39- Promotion to senior levels MUST be dependent on at least one cross functional assignment - at least for a year.

40- Cross Functional Finance. Managers must spend non-trivial time in Finance to understand the impact of their decisions on the business.

41- Innovations are never accomplished by teams designed from following the org-chart, that is by members who remain under the jurisdiction of their traditional bosses. Innovating organisations are a result of a collection of energetic and fearless project teams.


42- Project Manager is your super star. There are small number of superstars who must be retained at any cost. You already know who they are.

43- HR Job #1. Making projects successful.

44- Remember Projects is not just about being clinical, mechanical and doing a job. Its about also managing the ‘soft-stuff’

45- If the project has failed, its not the team that is responsible, its the people to made that team who are.

46- Teams are born. Teams die. Leaders will become followers and vice versa. Developing leaders (to create an innovating organisation) is not about getting them ready for some designations (by doing some detailed competence BS analysis)... Its not a joke, the analysis is one. Its a skill. Developing leaders is itself a skill. For example, You want leaders to lead innovation, which competency assessment tool or company will give you a score on that - Hint: NONE. Experience of putting them through the grill, will give the result.

47- Question Your Assumptions. If your org-chart makes absolute sense, then you don’t have an innovative organisation. You are too scared to break the rules. Let-go. Build a culture of ‘letting go’.

Centre For Excellence

48- School within a school. Setting up ‘centres of excellence’ that are run professionally and independently help immensely. For example, Samsung set up a complete Centre of Excellence for Global domination and gave Sony a run for their money in almost no time.

49- Centre for excellence example. Market potential enormous. Will dominate for next quarter century. Many “trying a few things.” Advice: Don’t mess around, get serious, win big.


50- This is No.1 innovation strategy. Big Company = Small things.

51- Keep decentralizing.

52- Do it before it is need. This IS The KEY.

53- Decentralization is an attitude, not a consulting project.

The Top Team

54- Innovation begins and ends with the Top Team.

55- Curiosity Quotient. Curiosity may have killed the cat but the lack of it at top level kills the innovation.

56- Innovation experience at the top - most don’t have it and so they don’t do it or support it. Change things. Or add an Innovation officer.

57- Diversity at the top. Very very rare. Fix it.

58- Top Team Calendar Management. If you are serious about innovation and if the people will take you seriously about innovation then it MUST show-up in your calendar every single week.

59- Chief Forgetting Officer. Unlearning is key. Begin it with you.

60- Beware of past glory... Its a killer. When Steve Jobs re-arrived at Apple he tossed out all the models of yesterday’s great “industry changing” computers—and replaced them with prototypes “from” tomorrow.

61- One last thing for Top Teams - Innovation, essentially by definition, is about change before its needed. Procrastination begins at the top. Procrastination reaches the bottom faster than rain drops hit the ground.

All or Nothing

62- Innovation is fun or no fun.

63- Innovation is the way of life or not.

64- Innovation is scary (yes it is)

65- Innovation is enthusiasm.

66- Innovation is speed.

67- Innovation is Big

68- Innovation is small.

69- Innovation is an iPod. Innovation is also a paper checklist that saves thousands of life at your neighboring hospital.

70- Innovation is a movement. Its a culture

71- Yes we all will not be Apple Inc. But we can damn well die trying. And that is a ride....

Chetan Walia

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