Don’t rely on innovation to paint over rotten problems.
For a house to get a proper new paint job, it requires a good power wash and scraping away of the old paint. If this step is skipped, the paint job will be less than ideal.
In Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, one “friend” avenges a long-held grievance, by inviting his victim to drink with him in a cellar, then walling him up inside. In that case, walling up apparently worked.
In organizations, sometimes it is tempting to cover over existing problems by doing something completely different. Sometimes it works, often it does not.
Innovating our way out of problems often doesn’t work because the root causes of the original problem have not been addressed. If root causes are not addressed the organization may find itself with a new raft of problems that look eerily similar to the old problems.
If there was no accountability, you may still have problems.
If there was no alignment, you may still have problems.
If needs and objectives have not been clarified, you may still have problems.
If there is no or little capability in the organization, you may still have problems.
If new initiatives are soaking up an inordinate amount of time of key producers, you may still have problems.
If middle management is not alerting senior leaders to unintended consequences, you may still have problems.
If the incentive structure is antithetical to change, you may still have problems.
Don’t always bet that your innovation efforts can leap frog your organization out of a hole. The same issues that sabotaged efforts in the first place may still be relevant to your new plans.