The Discipline of Innovation.
Every form of organization has its quirks and limitations, just as it has its strengths. In a company that’s flat (and probably small), there’s little obstacles placed before innovation and experimentation. Ideas are easily shared among team members, and one can decide in no time whether or not to implement or test out an idea.
With a company that’s more organized (and often bigger), in order to maintain a certain degree of consistency and order, a stricter form of decision making needs to be in place. Not everyone can say,”Let’s try this new idea out”, and have it tried out or implemented just like that. Most of the time, in such organizations, ideas need to be vetted and approved, and often the environment doesn’t even allow room for one to share his or her ideas. In a well oiled working environment, everyone has his or her role to play, and the overall atmosphere is typically that of: don’t do unnecessary things and don’t break the existing order.
There’s no right or wrong here; the flip side of organization and efficiency is the lack of creative innovation, while the abundance of crazy ideas probably points to a messy, unordered environment. There are of course industries that are inclined towards the latter (like art and fashion), and others that lean towards the former.
Then again, it will be hard for anyone in any industry to declare, “We don’t need innovation.” Every industry needs innovation, no matter how traditional they are. The job of big organizations, then, will be to regularly inject innovation while maintaining order and efficiency. It’s hard, but I think some companies like Google or perhaps Nike seem to be doing well in this department.
In my opinion, innovation is also a form of discipline. One has to regularly put in the effort to consider new ways of doing things, as well as foster an environment that drives people to innovate. It’s too easy for one to simply settle into the standard way of doing things without considering ways of innovating or improving, since that’s human nature. You have to actually tell yourself to set aside a certain time to consider ways of doing things better/differently, or you will never get to it, what with the amount of work we’re often made to deal with. Similarly, an organization should give its team members time and space to innovate, much like Google did (is still doing?). In fact, I wonder if it isn’t a good thing for companies to enforce innovation, perhaps with brainstorming events and whatnot.
I like to think that in this time and age, a company that doesn’t innovate is a company that’s dying. Even from the point of view of hired employees, an innovative company is way more fun to work with than one that isn’t.
Takeaway for this post? Make time for innovation, no matter who you are or what organization you represent. That’s the only way to survive, and the best way to have fun while at work.