Businesses need to stick their necks out

This week has been the most frustrating I can remember for a long time.

After almost two years working on a major piece of innovation, we have been stopped by the global category powers, who remain unconvinced with my quantitative concept testing scores. We cannot progress to launch. The computer says no.

This is not just a temporary roadblock but a permanent over-ruling of my recommendation. I am furious but I have nowhere to go. Well, not within this organisation, it seems.

At times like this, I wonder why I work for a major corporation. The politics and lack of intuition are enough to suck the motivation out of anybody.

I just don’t get it. We spend millions on innovation teams, cutting edge insight and agency talent. We have all the tools and resources one could dream of, yet when push comes to shove, we bottle out.

Instead, we employ a committee-based stage gate approval process, underwritten by spurious quantitative testing hurdle rates.

We read a carefully-crafted brand concept statement to random consumers in a room and hope they score it well. Whatever happened to winning hearts and minds? Rarely does high-quality raw material survive this tedious, sterile process, yet mediocre executions sail through.

As a shareholder, I should probably recommend that we cut innovation spend completely. Fire the people, cut the budgets and put it all towards the bottom line. We would save millions, boost the share price and save everybody the disappointment of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The problem in corporate life is that nobody wants to put their neck on the line. The more senior you are, the more you have to lose. If something works spectacularly then everybody tries to claim the glory. Stick your neck out on something that goes wrong and your career is badly tarnished.

Big corporates are in constant admiration of entrepreneurs and game-changing challenger brands. We want to know how they do it so that we can do it too. After all, they don’t have any money and we do.

Perhaps it is focus, perhaps it is creativity. Or maybe they are just incentivised to stick their necks out.

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