I don’t think that there’s been a war on innovation – more a war on risk which usually manifests itself in the form of a war on change. To be sure there are still innovators (even revolutionaries) within our organizations. I see them everyday.
But think about how many organizations we’ve seen where the budget, the forecast and the roadmap are objects or worship and reverence. Earlier in my career at a previous company, I actually saw the budget personified i.e. “That’s a good idea, but the budget says no”.
Innovation requires risk. Risk requires a willingness to step out of our comfort zones with all the curiosity of a toddler at the library. There’s a lethargy that comes with success. It’s painful to acknowledge that regardless of how great your product is there is somebody in garage somewhere looking to “steal your eggs”.
I think open source ‘minded’ folks through evangelism of idea meritocracy and community “brain pooling” are having an impact on business. But it takes time. And we need to continue to push the open source model into all aspects of our organizations from product development and distribution to finance, HR, etc. – It’s critical to get all the brains into the mix.
To your question about “How our organizations can change” I’m remembering the Jack Welch approach to supporting innovation. Incentives drive behavior. If you want innovators to step up to the plate and take big swings – remove the risk of failure from the equation. A ‘swing and miss’ should be rewarded – then dissected and learned from. A ‘swing and a hit’ should be generously rewarded. Rewards are not always financial – people are motivated in varied, often strange ways.