When the Black Dog BeDevils Innovation Change Agents

In the middle of writing my last book, Unleashing Innovation, I had a real honest-to-goodness nightmare. I could see my book floating on the shining Lake Michigan surface and, then suddenly, it sunk to the murky cold bottom, out of my reach. I wondered what the sinking book represented.

During this period of my professional life, I was going through one of those switchbacks you have when the work you are leading takes two steps forward and one step back. I did not realize it at the time, but large organizational change happens as a series of switchbacks. It’s never a straight shot. Innovation transformative change makes twists and turns while going up the slope.

Myths of Innovation Transformation

When you are leading a large change effort, the switchbacks feel personal. They can put you into a professional downward spiral. I recalled reading a biography of Winston Churchill where Churchill described his bouts of depression as “the black dog.” I started thinking about these switchback periods as a visit from “the Black Dog of innovation change.”

The Innovation Universe has four interconnected platforms required to turn legacy companies into innovation powerhouses.

  • FRAME: Setting the Stage. FRAME is the linkage of innovation with your company’s strategic architecture.

  • GENERATE: Customer-Driven Problem-Solving. GENERATE represents the art + science involved in creating innovations, from concept to commercialization.

  • EMBED: Organization Transformation. EMBED re-engineers the company’s culture, systems, and standards to enable innovation to thrive.