Our issue of The Most Innovative Companies around the world is coming up and Jena McGregor and I are pouring over BCG data about the who and the why. There are many exciting threads in the numbers but one that strikes me is that many top managers are beginning to experience innovative fatigue. A few years into the innovation movement and many managers are getting tired of it. Fascinating--and worrisome.
We won't complete the analysis until just before the magazine comes out in April but right now it looks like managers are reacting to the realization that innovation is not simply about "make me an iPod." It isn't about a few new products. It's about building a whole new culture and business process. It's about building ecosystems of services/products/experiences that embrace consumers as partners and get their loyalty.
It took a generation to complete the quality movement and it will take a generation for most companies to transform their cultures into innovation cultures. And that is for those companies led by people who will stay with the struggle for many years.
My guess is that those companies and those CEOs who do process right, who have always done process right (GE for example) are not suffering from innovation fatigue. They know how hard it is to change organizations and how long it takes. They are realistic.
It's the other CEOs and managers who think everything can be done quickly who are now disappointed that they can't see results after a year or two. Many will return to what they know best--efficiency--to squeeze a little bit more out of what they already do. My advice to them? Innovation fatigue is fatal.