I like many other have been captivated by the stories of the big innovators and the game-changing, disruptive products, services and business models.
But from my experience there are many downsides to focussing on this approach which we sometimes forget to mention.
As management professor Robert I Sutton explains:
The disadvantages of big, hairy type goals:
‘1. They’re too blunt to provide daily guidance — or satisfaction.
Tell a division that it needs to double its revenues in the next five years and people will not likely see what they should individually do differently to achieve that.
A good boss lays out the path to a big goal, and works with people to break it down into objectives that more clearly imply the necessary actions.
Focusing attention on the little steps not only clarifies what people need to accomplish on a daily basis, it also allows people to enjoy Small Wins, as Karl Weick called them in his wonderful 1984 article in The American Psychologist.
2. They’re too daunting.
Weick also points out that organizations tend to be stymied by big goals that have not been broken into bite-size pieces.
Faced with seemingly huge and overwhelmingly difficult challenges, people freeze up or even freak out.
So the best bosses not only outline the steps, they talk and act like each is not overly difficult — which quells people’s fears and enhances their confidence that, if they just keep moving, everything will turn out fine.’
This is not to say that a big innovation goal is a waste of time.
Far from it — these types of goals can provide direction but must be coupled with how to move forward.
This is where the magic of having a small wins innovation strategy might be more productive.
In a recent public workshop I facilitated for example among leaders from many different industries I asked them about the benefits of small wins innovation.
The advantages of a small wins innovation approach:
– more effective
– easier to communicate
– less risk
– it could be delivered by people all over the organisation
– required less budget
I will write and consult about small wins innovation more and more as i really believe it is a big idea worth sharing.