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OUROBOROS The Cycle of Innovation


While the innovation cycle doesn’t stop, the nal outcome doesn’t have to be the same. You can make it different, despite what others think or say. All great innovators were once perceived as wishful thinkers, but they know better – just think Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.

".. an idea."


Your boss blinks in response.


You explain your idea. Your voice starting out loud and con dent gets pitchier by the minute.


Boss interrupts, “There’re tons of those on the market already.”


You take a deep breath. “The only similar idea I could find is from a small startup in South Africa. There are half a million SMEs in the market. It will be a new revenue stream for the company. Plus, if we make it freemium...”


“We don’t give anything for free. But as long as you get the OK from other departments, I will manage things. We need it within six months though – we haven’t been meeting targets.”

You nod and get down to work.


First stop, the CEO. The CEO’s office door has a sign that says “My door is always open.” It’s locked. Typical. His personal assistant is away from her desk, there’s no way to meet him now.


Next stop, marketing. You explain your idea to the head of marketing as he bounces up and down on his bosun, squeezing a stress ball and messaging across various social media platforms. “Nice concept. Is there a market for it?”


“Well, we’ll be the first in the market. We can become an innovation leader and...”


“You know there must be a reason why no one is doing it here. Maybe someone tried and failed? Listen, let’s do a focus group and hear what people think before we invest resources into the project.” You nod. Sometimes focus groups don’t know what they don’t know. But you take it as a win, nevertheless.


Third stop, software development. The head listens while stroking his goatee. When you  nish, there’s a short pause. “Anything is possible, under the right conditions, time and resources. We need to create a new version with features you need.” When he says resources, that’s code for budget and manpower.


When you ask if he could develop it in six months, he sighs. “If I had 10 more developers or outsource it, maybe. But this is not in the budget – unless you scope it down and keep it simple. I could do something.”


Finally, the dreaded Finance. You recognise the annoyance on their faces when you tell them your idea and that you are working to clear it with the CEO. “How much will it take to develop? What’s the projected revenue? Can we break even in three months?”


You went back to work out the numbers by reducing the features, adjusting to focus group feedback and planning the marketing launch. You show Finance your spreadsheet. They remain unconvinced and demand for the mark-up to be double its costs. It’s the policy, they say. That’s code for Take it or Leave it. You remember your boss’ words about a new revenue stream, so you meekly take it.


On a future day – long after your failed innovation, you knock on your boss’ door again, stick your head into the room and say, “Hey boss, I’ve got...”


About the Author

The author worked in the innovation space for a large organisation for almost a decade. He no longer works there.

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