When innovation becomes a subversive activity …

As times get tough, people get laid off and budgets get squeezed, the facility to try stuff in organisations gets increasingly difficult. The need for watertight, up-front business cases before you can even try anything is probably the most cited reason for failure to kick-start social media tools on intranets. In common with every other commentator on social media, I’ve given my views (here and here for starters!) on the whole subject of the ROI of social media investment.

The rather sad catch 22 situation is that when times get really tough, organisations really need tools that connect people quickly, that cut across organisations boundaries, and that facilitate real-time, fast collaboration and sharing … and yet, during tough times organisations instinctively cut off the blood supply to these solutions to save relatively small amounts of money in the short term.

I’ve always felt that social media tools, and innovation in general for that matter, have subversive roots. The most innovative companies seem to be the ones that are either prepared to tolerate a bit of subversion on the fringes, or actually encourage it. The danger now is that subversion becomes a corporate crime in the drive for short-term cost savings …

My advice to anyone who finds themselves in this kind of situation is  … PROCEED UNTIL APPREHENDED!

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  1. And then have a REALLY good reason! 🙂

    One of the 10 commandments to Intrapreneurs is :

    It is better to ask forgiveness than permission

    Another relevant one :
    Work underground for as long as you can

  2. I agree!

    To make to situation even worse, when times are uncertain, the competition for internal resources can increase between (and inside of) departments. This seems particularly true for IT / Comms teams who need to work together to introduce innovation with regard to employee communications.

    Focus can shift onto projects that make people ‘look good’ but don’t really contribute towards real business objectives or innovation.

    This stuff drives me insane and is the reason I left corporate life to work for a smaller technology company. As a result a passion of mine is to ensure our solutions are easy for corporates to ‘just get on with it’. We also know that unless there is a person inside an organization who is a visionary and prepared to ‘proceed until apprehended’ we are much less likely to be successful getting our solution embedded.

    PS. I hope this doesn’t sound like a plug, it’s certainly not intended, this is simply an area I’m very passionate about!

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