What is the opposite of Innovation?

I propose 'compliance' - the life blood of any large, multi-national company. The rhythm to which all employees must march. The control mechanism that creates stability and predictability. 'Compliance', ladies and gentlemen, is the opposite of Innovation.

But why is it important to know the opposite of innovation?

Innovation is typically tossed around in vision statements and annual goals. But it gets more than its fair share of attention when a competitor comes up with something that's selling well. It's a knee jerk reaction to someone else's success. It could also be a reaction to some other department doing something new, flashy. While you are selling the same old deck with the same old lines trending upward. Leaves you with that feeling of emptiness and anxiety. Like the yearning for love or happiness, when you skim through Facebook photos of a friends wedding or a beach vacations.

The spontaneous reaction such triggers create is to deliver tiny, sharp electric shocks through the organization in the desperate hope that it awakens someones creativity. Hope that people start spitting out patents, innovative designs, solutions that save cost and yet earn profits. Events are arranged, competitions/awards announced, 'innovation champions' designated, shared drives and excels created for people to dump their regurgitated ideas. These thoughts usually do not go beyond the regular orbits of putting something or the other on mobile, cloud, IoT or in Hadoop. Smash together ideas from Twitter and a magazine you read the other day while waiting for the grocery bill. Slides are minted by the kilotons. Aging developers and managers tell young kids how its done. Everyone goes back to their desk energized.

Innovation... (drum roll)... is unleashed.

Except not much real innovation happens, does it? Why not?

Plan budget. Plan releases. Plan projects. Fill timesheets. Catch anyone not filling timesheets. Report anyone charging more or less time or charging time in the wrong projects. Hire people. Make checklists for onboarding the new hires. Punish anyone not submitting the checklists. Track trainings. Track leaves. Audit development, testing, environment teams. Escalate the hell out of an issue. Make sure timelines are met and we stay within budget. Plan outings. Submit expenses on time. Stay within budget for those as well. Whew! Done. Now for the next year.

This is compliance. And it is important.

So how do you still innovate, if the people you asked to be innovative have to go back to their desks and comply?

(I don't know yet)

Published: 25 June 2016.

All views expressed here are my own and not endorsed by my employer or any other company. Cases presented do not necessarily relate to my employer, peers or team. - Vikrant