Rocket launch by Jurvetson on Flickr. Used under a creative commons license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/1400552158

Launching Tilt the Windmill

Since the publication of Lean Analytics, I’ve spent a year talking to companies large and small about innovation. For the small ones, it’s relatively easy: they’re chasing a dream, and they don’t have to trade off sustaining the now with inventing the new. They have nothing to lose. All they can do is innovate. To be sure, there’s only a vanishingly small chance of success and it’s likely that they’ll hit the wall at a million miles an hour. But they signed up for that.

Big companies, on the other hand, have everything to lose. And by all accounts, they’re losing it. This isn’t a sudden death, mind you. Most of these lumbering giants are slowly withering on the vine, sliding gently into that good night.

The reasons are manifold. They can’t adapt; they’re unable to see beyond the next quarter; they fail to attract the right employees. Seminal books like Crossing the Chasm and The Innovator’s Dilemma explore these factors in detail, and a generation of business school graduates, weaned on such texts, now sits in the boardrooms and hallways of power. And yet, for most firms, the problem persists.

Some companies seem to have figured it out. From the insurance firm that’s reframing itself as a curator of your digital legacy, to the logistics company that treats new projects as research, to the telecommunications manufacturer that has realized data exhaust is as valuable as the product itself, there are bright spots in the corporate firmament.

I call this Tilting the Mill. (Why? This.)

I’m going to spend the next year writing about this, sharing case studies, and trying to learn more about what works and what doesn’t. I’ll probably publish what I learn in the form of a book, and maybe other content. I hope you’ll join me.

One thought on “Launching Tilt the Windmill

  1. Great subject for study. I think much of this gets down to your cycle time vs. scale argument. Most large organizations struggle to decide/move quickly. They begin to believe they can “will” change because of their scale. Seen it in many places. Innovation, when it does occur, is usually in skunk works form outside the bureaucracy.

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