When Innovation isn’t Innovative

Two events last week brought home the limits we may unnecessarily apply to innovation.

The first. A conversation about an absosolutely fascinating – on paper – challenge an ASEAN bank was seeing and how they were selecting just the right person for the digital transformation role. A few questions later, though, it became apparent: this was ‘Business As Usual Digital Transformation’. Was the role appropriately senior? Yes. Was the remit broad? Too broad. Was there sufficient investment to see a radical new bank be born? Couldn’t say. Was the leadership ready to leapfrog ‘traditional’ digital and be digital native? Not in the slightest.

A bank that had found itself behind the digital curve was aiming to be merely a me-too bank, and just the right person was just a mascot. They were losing out on a great opportunity, and I can only imagine how torn between the comfort of as-is and the challenge of to-be the management of that bank must have been to craft such a non-innovative innovation role.

The second. A short speech from a well known and well respected leader in finance about breaking existing mentalities of financial services and the unending need to push the limits of the possible. The financial industry needs a shake-up, a wake-up, to move away from pushing products to enabling people.

Sometimes we fall short of this ideal and do ‘innovation’ and ‘transformation’ without a genuine desire to change. The call of Business As Usual is very strong. Doesn’t mean we should stop trying to do more and be more each day.

So, where do we go from here? Keep people – not products, or services, or even our bottom line – in the forefront of thinking. I’ve heard this called ‘following a north star’ and it makes perfect sense to me.

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