This distinction was inspired by a blog post by SAP HANA, starting out with an observation that many managers just seem too busy to innovate. My observations are similar. While I have seen a significant uptick in the number of insurance leaders pursuing some kind of innovation effort in the last few years, the biggest complaint is bandwidth, not budget.
The story sounds like this: “We want to establish an innovation discipline at XYZ Insurance Company.” Then we say, “Great! We can help. Let’s schedule some time to co-create the plan that will work for you.” Then they say, “Um, I don’t have time for that. Can you just send me a proposal so I can share it with my boss?”
It doesn’t work that way.
Innovation doesn’t follow current rules. Innovation makes new rules. Innovation and efficiency don’t belong in the same sentence either.
You can’t propose an innovation solution without spending a good deal of time contemplating the areas on which you want to focus, their alignment with your competencies, and the data and strategies needed to find new opportunities. Unfortunately, to the untrained eye, this work can show up as inefficiency.
Albert Einstein was famous for saying that if he was given an hour to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes on defining the problem and five minutes on solving it. Einstein was an innovator.
However, in typical corporations, the solution would be the starting point. The painstaking work of defining the problem would be seen as unnecessary or that it should have been delegated. In organizations focused on increasing productivity and reducing costs, this makes sense. But that isn’t innovation; it’s renovation. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It is a necessary part of business.
However, innovation is an imperative, too. And it is being squeezed out by the tyranny of the urgent, or worse, being paid lip service only.