Short term vision blocking innovation as consultant warns firms against ‘Kodak moment’

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.39.32 PMA quarter-by-quarter approach to business is hampering innovation and creativity in Australia with management and staff blaming each other for the problem.

The managing director of brand consultancy Landor, Dominic Walsh, said such a short term strategy is “hard to get out of” as he highlighted bureaucracy as another factor holding back innovation.

He warned companies not to fall into the “Kodak moment” –  who famously went under in barely a year – after suffering from a chronic lack of vision.

Despite being the first to develop a digital camera, Kodak failed to act and were wiped out by competitors who saw the growth potential.

“Kodak lost their profits, sales and staff in 12 months,” Walsh said.

Speaking at the Mumbrella360 conference, Walsh said his company carried out research among 500 executives with almost eight out of 10 blaming short term strategies as the key barrier to innovation.

“It’s the three month cycle, hitting your numbers of a monthly basis. When you get into that short term cycle it’s very hard to get out of that,” he said. “Seventy per cent also said their firms lack a clear company vision and no long term view.”

When the study delved deeper, it found senior executives saw no issues with the leadership or culture of the business and blamed staff while middle level management held poor leadership accountable.

“There was a bit of finger pointing on both ends,” he said. “There is a sense of a cultural issue within organisations that really blocks progress. It’s really about winning heart and minds.”

But typically, only 30 per cent of the workforce is committed “to doing a really good job” while 50 per cent of staff put in the time and 20 per cent “act out their discontent in counter productive ways”.

Walsh said bureaucracy is another key barrier, and likened it to the industrial revolution “in terms of hierarchy and decision making”.

“It isolates the leaders and slows down the decision making process and in the current economy you need to think and act quickly,” he said. “Bureaucracy doesn’t allow you to do that. With bureaucracy you also have rules and procedures, you need to get legal sign off before you can move on something, employees lose their share of voice and you take less risks because you become complacent or feel you can’t make a change within an organisation.”

Walsh added it is also not good enough to simply inspire people – because it usually leads to nothing.

“What I see in many cases is that we go and talk about doing things differently, have a big meeting, cheer and then go back to doing what we’ve always done,” he said. “We need to inspire but there needs to be long term behavioural change.”

Steve Jones


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