Most organizations use some version of an innovation funnel to bring ideas to life. It starts with lots of ideas at the front end and then launches whatever survives all the way to the back end.
Yet this Darwinian process of bringing ideas to life doesn’t necessarily lead to survival of the fittest ideas. If we’re not careful, the innovation funnel leads to survival of the safest ideas.
Organizations are good at spotting risks. In an effort to improve success rates, organizations tend to put sharper teeth in the funnel.
As ideas run the organizational gauntlet, they can get pruned, sheared, shaped, and watered down beyond recognition. On the way, they can lose the essence of the idea. They may lose their point of difference and reason for being.
A diverse team can polish an idea and make it stronger. Silo thinking can sand the edges and make the idea weaker.
The path of least resistance is to play it safe. But playing it safe can be risky — leading to “me to” products, undifferentiated knock-offs, and more of the same.
We can’t break through the clutter by adding to it.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years (starting with one of the very first cartoons I drew, back in 2002):