To Innovate, Observe The Tripwires, Then Trip Them On Purpose.

Everyone who’s worked in teams and enterprises for any length of time knows that there are tripwires everywhere that people take great pains not to trip. They know that if they do trip these tripwires, there will be trouble.

As an innovator, it’s your task to observe the tripwires, and strategically trip those wires to see what will happen. Part of innovation is pushing people and teams out of their comfort zone, driving people to generate new ideas, new processes and new tools to improve their customer’s lives and their colleague’s lives.

To keep things running smoothly, enterprises put up tripwires which will explode when tripped, warning people that something is going on which is out of the ordinary.

As an innovator, out of the ordinary is your stock and trade, being able to observe the tripwires and selectively tripping them as required, will help you to move forward an innovation agenda.

Does innovation occur in complete comfort? Do people innovate when everything is running smoothly? Do you rock the boat when the seas are calm? Of course, you don’t, but that is precisely when you need to do it – when seas are rough, there may be no time for innovation – or it’s too late for innovation. Think to yourself – why are those tripwires there? Is it a legal reason? Is it regulatory or compliance based? Or is it just in place to restrict innovation? Is it in place to save money?

Or is it there to purposely keep people in a box. Some people don’t mind being in the box – the box is comfortable, the box is known, the box is safe.

Unfortunately, the world is not safe – so the sooner you step out of your comfort zone, trip those wires and set off those alarms, the sooner you will know the limitations of your team and enterprise what you can and cannot do. Once you know those limits, begin to stretch your companies Overton Window (the extent of acceptable behaviors). In many cases, you will need to initiate a drastic behavioral change before real innovation is seen in your organization. Why do you need to trip the tripwires? Why can’t you simply innovate inside the box?

In some cases, and some enterprises, that’s all you can do, that’s all that you are allowed to do because leaving the box is unthinkable. However, innovating inside the box will not protect you against outside forces, which is the reason that you are innovating in the first place – sure it important to incrementally improve your products and processes, but at the same time, your competitors may not have the same restrictions as you do, and will be able to disrupt your business before you can disrupt your own because you were simply too afraid to trip the tripwire. How many companies have failed due to lack of innovation – they could not see their competitors until it was too late, either dismissing them because the competitors were too small, or because they were too fat and happy.

Too often, enterprises lose the startup edge which carried them to their initial success, and unless they are willing to disrupt themselves, then they will likely be disrupted right out of business by their more innovative competitors.