They sure are. Sometimes we’re even fearful of our own ideas, not to mention the ideas of others.
This spot from GE is wonderful and it reminds me of the mindset and behaviour that we all need to have as marketers and leaders.
Easily talked about, but much harder to model. (And a huge thank you to Wes Wolch at MEC for sharing it with me – when, funnily enough, we were discussing ideas.)
Watch it here:
After I watched this it hit me that it’s no accident that GE is offering this point-of-view. Celebrated authors and business leaders like Sir Martin Sorrell and Roger Martin have been writing about this same problem. To GE’s credit, they have done a lovely job of articulating a point-of-view on innovation, and of offering a meaningful role for their brand in this thinking. It’s an excellent spot.
But the context for it is important too.
In Sir Martin Sorrell’s latest article: Business Needs Magic, Not Just Metrics, he writes about #CreateUK, “a week-long celebration of the UK’s creative industries with the aim of inspiring and equipping the next generation of talent, helping creative businesses to start up and grow, and maintaining the UK’s competitiveness against other international markets”. He says “Bravo” to this, and I agree.
In this article he points to many other thinkers – people like Clay Christensen, a Harvard Professor who argues that corporations are still thinking in the past. Christensen believes that “an obsessive focus on metrics like internal rate of return, passed from generation to generation of managers is leading companies to prioritise ‘sustaining and efficiency innovations’ (incremental improvements that deliver faster, predictable returns) over ‘market-creating innovations’ (entirely new products, categories and services that pay off only in the longer term, but create real corporate and economic growth).”
And people like Canadian Roger Martin, from the Rotman School of Management, writes that “the modern world of business has become ever more proud to be ever more scientific, rigorous, analytical; and, at the same time, is complaining more and more about the difficulty of having innovation. Those two things are not unrelated.”
Read Sorrell’s full article here.
So true. From my perspective, I wonder if it comes down to fear of taking risks.
New ideas are only considered great if we can prove that they’ll be great before we place our bets. And there are many ways to predict success; rational tools that help to know if an idea can be successful. But equally the backbone of any good idea is belief – and that can’t be measured.
If it’s always a question of margin improvement, of keeping keeping cost of goods low, or running a ‘safe’ communication, then it’s safe to say we don’t really want true innnovation or great ideas. And if we continue not to want this – we cease to change, evolve, or discover. We let our fear get in the way.
The GE spot tells us a story of ideas being scary, ugly, passed over, and isolated by others. It’s meant to give us a human moment to understand that behind every idea there is a belief that life will be better because of it. But unfortunately these ideas are so quickly discounted because “that’s now how we’ve done it before,” or “that won’t work because…”
This is a mindset barrier: a general discomfort with vulnerability. Just as the newborn “baby” in this ad depicts, it’s hard to love something that feels so strange and unusual. It’s threatening, frustrating, and questions what we know and accept. This is vulnerability in all its ugliness. This is messy and tiring. But it just might be worth it!