Tradition v.s. Innovation

In a world of quirky start-ups, disruptive technologies and businesses like Facebook, Twitter, Apple and their kind, more and more businesses are beginning to question whether taking the traditional route with regard to innovation is best. We see more amateurs breaking the mould and creating new realities for us thus surpassing a lot of the traditional organisations in the game.

Innovation for me means putting skin in the game, the newbies’ new ways of doing things is earning them respect on the market. It appears that organisations of the future are the ones that are not shy to innovate. In a single sentence, innovate or get pushed out.

I am a member of an organisation which prides itself on its heritage and traditions. It has outlived most of its founders and remains an institutional reminder of where we come from as a society.

As a result of this tradition it’s a dinosaur to its younger members who feel frustrated by the bureaucracy. Getting simple things to change to a large extent takes an entire term of office and by the time that one thing is dealt with the world has changed once again and that matter is no longer relevant. Bureaucracy creates a maddening inertia for those who need to follow it in organisations. The perception it creates is one of arrogance.

In many conversations with my good friend about this, we have agreed that organisations are no longer respected for their past alone. They are respected for what they bring to the market and the way in which they offer utility to the consumers of their products.

In the decision between tradition and innovation, the question is how to keep the good parts of the old and when to begin using the great parts of the new. By definition, a tradition is a long standing custom or belief that is passed from generation to generation. Whilst an innovation is a new method or idea that makes changes in something established. With that said, the disruption suggested by innovation requires a tolerance for failure and a willingness to be misunderstood, qualities that many large companies find hard to master.

In the book Built to Last the authors discuss clock building versus time telling. In this chapter they define clock builders as organisations that are pace setters and time tellers on the other hand are those that stay the same, they follow the trends and never seem to lead consumers into new exciting spaces.

The need to stretch and grow and wake up to the reality of where you really are as an organisation is critical. Many a time we institutionalise our operations, forgetting the principle of continuous improvement. Operations just like competitive advantage are not fixed and should be adapted to the times.

My simple plea is, change something, anything!

We are living in a time where we are seeing a dramatic shift in the ways of doing business which are shaping the future of global business forever.



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