Conventional wisdom suggests that small companies are more innovative than larger organizations. It is also clear that large companies must have been successful (at least in the past) given their size. Considering these observations, does innovation lead to success, does success stifle innovation or are both true? Few would disagree that meaningful innovation leads to success. So if a company became successful as a result of innovation, why does success seem to stifle innovation in many companies?
In most cases, it is the organization itself that has the greatest impact on realizing innovation. As a company grows and matures, barriers to innovation can become an increasing part of the company culture. Processes and procedures evolve to ensure consistency of performance by eliminating waste and risk. Best practices emerge based on what is proven to optimize the known and to avoid uncertainty. These perceived value drivers can crush innovation by discouraging risk-taking of any kind.
The key to maintaining an innovative culture in a company of any size is to encourage ideation and reward those who are willing to take on the execution risk of innovation. Organizations need to understand and accept that their own corporate behaviors can be the biggest obstacle to meaningful innovation.
In order for there to be successful innovation, there has to be a market for the innovation, and the internal system has to be able to execute. The larger a company is, the harder it is to understand the internal system, and the internal risk of the innovation effort usually greatly exceeds any market risk. Employees understand this, and, unless you provide incentives, support and reward teams for taking on this challenge, a company risks having those accountable for delivering innovation feeling like they are subject to the punishment reserved for the likes of Sisyphus and unable to ever summit the challenge.