Because you never do anything that's painful.
A while ago, I read this on one of those blogs you follow:
Every organization I've observed that's serious about being innovative is filled with people in genuine pain — not just stress or anxiety or deadline pressure, and certainly not discomfort. Pain. This can be the physical strain of consecutive all-nighters to test every meaningful configuration of a website before it goes live, to the emotional pain of subordinating your vision of the innovation to the vicissitudes of customer taste. Ideally, innovators go through pain so their customers and clients won't have to.
And I've been thinking about it a lot since then, and I've realized that you don't do anything like this. In fact, you avoid this kind of pain at all costs.
You talk about the need to learn more about the environment your members operate in, but you don't do it. You never go out into that world to capture any useful intelligence. You talk about engaging your members in the development process of a new program or service, but you don't do it. All your ideas are kept safe and pristine within the four walls of your office. And you talk about putting something unfinished out there--some prototype of some half-formed idea to see what your members can do or create with it--but you don't do that either. You haven't the resources, or the organizational support, or the courage, to do something with that much risk associated with it.
So, you're not innovative. Stop saying that you are.
But there's something else that puzzles me. If you're not willing to do these things, if you're not willing to experience the pain of innovation, then why exactly do you think that the people on your staff will be willing to do so? Because you tell them to? Because you write about them on your blog? That's a little too much like the parent who tells his kids not to smoke while lighting up another cigarette. Like those kids, your staff won't follow what you say; they will only follow what you do.
That makes sense, doesn't it? You're the one who likes to talk about organizations as systems. What kind of system develops from a leader that plays things safe, that doesn't take risks, and that avoids the pain of difficult and confusing interactions with his customers and clients?
Surely not one that's innovative.
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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.