Challenging the Statu Quo

The other day I had the opportunity to talk to an IDEO worker, one of the leading innovation firms in the world. I met him at an innovation workshop in Madrid. His name is Alex Castellarnau and he is from Andorra. During his conference he tried to justify and argument the huge amount of creativity that traditionally exists in the Silicon Valley (Cisco, Intel, Google and many more), probably one of the most innovative geographic areas in the world.

The participants in the session and me were shocked by what Alex said. “Perhaps the most important reason why the Silicon Valley is such a good place for innovation –he said- is because, inside the companies, everybody can challenge the Statu Quo.”

Alex meant that if you work in one of the typical Silicon Valley firms you are constantly invited to challenge the conventions about what your company does (products, processes, etc.) and even to challenge the power and leadership mechanisms. Some of these companies have special groups that are kindly invited to go against the rules of the firm just to challenge everything and try to discover new things.

Let’s remember the Harvard model on innovation (Please read the extraordinary book “The innovators DNA” –recently translated into Spanish by Deusto): innovators do Observe, Question, Network, Experiment and Associate. It’s not easy to do this unless you live in a very innovative culture in which you can think in a different way, make mistakes and constantly learn from the experiments and prototypes you make.

I wonder if in Catalan and Spanish companies people are allowed to freely challenge the Statu Quo and behave under this Harvard principles. In most of them, instead of “discovery skills” people are asked to develop “delivery skills” (control, measurement, execution, etc.). As Clayton Christensen said many years ago in his extraodinary book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” we need time to think different: time to exploit and time to explore.


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