I was talking with a colleague today about business processes and software development. She mentioned that there are times where innovation just seems to disappear from an organization, and I wondered why that is.
At first I thought that perhaps it's the difference between technology companies and companies that use technology, but I can look at my own experience to see that isn't true. Innovation can disappear from both, though the path is often very different.
In a technology company, it might very well be started as a means to solve some problem that isn't adequately being addressed in the world. This leads to novel ideas, and hopefully, something awesome that is delivered. Over time, the problem tends to change, be less important, or there is more competition. These companies get scatter brained and start chasing all kinds of weird things that probably don't matter, or they simply don't adapt.
Non tech companies lose their way differently. Software is often considered a part of business, not the business. The IT organization is largely a service organization, but its role has changed over the years. It used to be the part of the company that seemed to make magic, but over time they're not viewed as collaborators, just as expense. The disconnect decreases quality and success of software projects, and there isn't room to innovate because morale (and the good people) disappear.
These paths might be different, but ultimately the responsibility lies with leadership in both situations. It's not necessarily a hierarchy that has to be in place, but people who strongly push for innovation and recognize it are required to keep innovation alive. Some combination of complacency and being reactive instead of proactive gets you behind.
It's not a death sentence, it just takes brutal self-awareness at nearly every level. Ha! That sounds pretty easy, right? When I read about success in evolving and sustainable businesses, that awareness and the will to change is a consistent trait. It's something I strive for, but it's hard to keep up, and even harder to pass along to others.