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Why "bandwagon innovation" doesn't work

I don’t know how many recent news stories I’ve seen about “social networking,” and the “Web 2.0 revolution!”, but it’s getting pretty tiresome. titanic.jpg

It seems that everyone is now ready to get involved with these “trends,” to build a new business, transform themselves, provide for deeper customer contact, or to achieve some other greater glory. “Get social!”, goes the thinking, and you have discovered the key to future success! Build a social network, and magic happens!

As companies jump on board this bandwagon, they should realize that they are ultimately ensuring that they are destroying any innovative spirit that might have existed within!

Jumping on these “trends,” for example, is really dumb, because a) there is nothing really new going on here, and b) you can’t create breakthrough thinking by regurgitating old ideas.

Innovation that is based on “jumping on the bandwagon” is doomed to fail, for many, many reasons:

  • it’s lazy: true innovation takes hard work. It involves massive cultural, organizational, structural change. It involves an organization and leadership team that is willing to try all kinds of radical and new ideas to deal with rapid change. An innovative organization can’t innovate simply by jumping on a trend. Trying to do so is just trying to find an easy solution to deep, complex problems.
  • it involves little new creativity: by linking a new approach to doing things with a commonly used phrase (i.e. “social networking”) means that people end up shutting their brains down. Creativity is immediately doomed through commonality.
  • it’s just a bandaid: bandwagon based innovation causes people to look for instant solutions and a quick fix, rather than trying to really figure out how to do something differently.
  • it’s misfocused: it involves putting in a solution is sought without identifying a problem. It’s backward in terms of approach.
  • it encourages mediocrity: it reduces innovation to an “idea of the week,” and does nothing to encourage people to really look at their world in a different way.
  • it reduces innovation to sloganeering: truly creative people within organizations are tried of slogan-based management. They’ve seen far too many ‘radical right turns’ and ‘new beginnings’ — and when they realize that their management team has jumped onto the ‘social networking’ bandwagon, their faith and motivation goes out the window.
  • it destroys innovation: after the bandwagon effect ultimately fails (as they always do for the reasons above), people end up feeling burned out, cynical, demotivated — and they’ll be prepared to do little when the “next big thing” comes along.

We’ve been here before folks. Low-carb. E-commerce. One-Minute Management. Dot.Com’s. Total Quality Management. Customer Service Revolution. Etc etc etc.

Look, innovation isn’t about bandwagon’s.

It’s more important — and more difficult — than that.

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