Innovation: Going South for Success

As I write, I am in a beautiful Spanish-speaking nation for the launch of a major advance in the manufacturing technology of a large industry. Our inventive client has a demonstrated breakthrough for one particular industry that could revolutionize how a class of products are made, with significant efficiency, quality, and environmental gains. It’s tremendously exciting, and the enthusiasm of our large industrial partner in this country is energizing and deeply appreciated.

Here, outside the United States, the leaders of the company we are working with really get innovation. As far as I can tell, they see advances in their processes and products not as threats to personal fiefdoms, but as opportunities that they have an obligation to pursue if they are to be true to themselves and their business. They are all on board for innovation. We are relishing the culture of innovation we are finding here, from seasoned mechanics to young employees and all the way up to the top man at the facility and his corporate leaders. It is wonderful, and yet we are savoring this experience with a touch of sorrow at how rare these attitudes are among their United States peers in this industry.

In the United States, our experiences in attempting to bring this innovation to U.S. companies followed many of the “innovation fatigue factors” that we discuss in our book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue. We reached out to a significant number of companies that should be interested. Some are genuinely interested, and we expect to see some exciting progress soon. But the most rapid and enthusiastic progress has come from south of the border.

Some US companies surprised and disappointed us, displaying classic “innovation fatigue factors.” “Not invented here” syndrome or “open innovation fatigue” played a role for some. In some cases a few people got busy looking for reasons not to be believe (the “reasons to doubt”). Naturally, part of the problem may have been the way the message was communicated and inadequate depth of contacts in reaching out to the prospective beneficiaries of the technology. Of course, I think much more than that is involved.

Once we looked south, things got a lot better. There is an openness to innovation and a hunger for success transcending many of the internal innovation fatigue factors that large companies often face. I’m not sure how things will turn out, but I will always be impressed with what I’ve experienced in one wonderful part of an innovative land where we found a surprisingly open and enthusiastic culture of innovation and cooperation. I hope companies to the north will be able to fortify their own will to innovate in order to keep up!

This week, anyway, we’re going south for innovation. Wish us buena suerte!

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