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On the Brink

On the Brink

4 Great Ways to Become a More Innovative Company

On Jan 9, 2018 8:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Andrea Simon, innovation


For years, I opened my CEO workshops with this question:

“Are you an innovative leader helping your company remain competitive in a fast-changing business environment?” 

As soon as I asked it, every hand would go up.  However, when I asked for a success story about an innovation or a product improvement, I would only hear stuttering and stammering.

Eventually I realized that executives raise their hands because they want to be seen as innovators, but the reality was that they were long on promise and short on performance. I don’t fault these leaders—their hearts are in the right place. We all want to be innovators, but when it comes to making it happen, we often falter.

What’s the innovation problem?

We see examples of extremely innovative corporations, like Apple, Amazon, Uber and Google, but they are notable because they are not the norm. The norm is that corporations are good at a few core things, but when the market changes, they are slow to respond—and often aren’t able to respond at all. Maxwell Wessel wrote a great article in HBR literally titled "Why Big Companies Can't Innovate.”

As a corporate anthropologist, companies usually call me in when they are going through one of these crises, so I have the good fortune and tremendous challenge of working with smart executive teams right at the moment when the things that have worked so well for them in the past aren’t working so well any more.

Over decades of doing this kind of work, I have seen many reasons firsthand that stand in the way of innovations. Here are a few of the themes I see over and over:

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Corporate Anthropology: The Key to Solving Business Problems

On Oct 17, 2016 10:48:40 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Culture Change, Corporate Anthropology, On the Brink, innovation

How I love to talk about corporate anthropology! Especially with a fellow businesswoman who wants to learn what it's all about. That's what I did recently with Michele Price, a fractional CMO, startup mentor and communication strategist, when she interviewed me for Business Breakthrough Radio. We talked about innovation, change, the influence of corporate culture, and the effect anthropology can have on all of these.

I explained how today's rapid pace of change is challenging companies of all sizes, and how difficulties arise when dysfunctional cultures create roadblocks to a company's creativity and agility. In such a situation, an anthropologist’s tool kit can play a key role in showing leadership how to step outside their business and see it with fresh eyes. That is when the true "aha" moments come, which are the genesis of real innovation. 

All of these ideas are discussed at length in my new book, "On The Brink: A Fresh Lens To Take Your Business To New Heights." In it, I share case studies of seven companies that were stalled and on the brink of sliding backward. Corporate anthropology got them unstuck and put them on the path to new levels of productivity and market success.

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