Self Preservation: The Number One Hurdle To Innovation

 In Analytics, Digital Strategy

One of the biggest hurdles to Digital Transformation and Digital Innovation is the organization’s inertia and tendency to optimize for self-preservation. Self-preservation can exist in the enterprise at the individual, team, divisional or the organizational level and can have a devastating impact on the organization’s ability to innovate and grow.

Self-preservation is not a new phenomenon however, it is more deadly for an enterprise now than ever. This is because the speed of technology change has increased geometrically. In the past, self-preservation would automatically get corrected as the technology was generally learned and adopted slowly with enough time for the enterprise to become aware of the change and implement it. However, the rate of technology change has magnified tremendously and the enterprises no longer have the luxury to take their time with the change. Inaction risks getting left behind and other competitors who leverage and change faster stand to capture the largest market shares and customer mind share.

Self preservation is the tendency of the enterprise to ignore, undermine or postpone the adoption and integration of new technology in the enterprise to avoid a change in the status quo across technology, products, services and most importantly, day to day operations and organizational structure. Self-preservation can lead to what is termed as “politics” in an org, it can stifle innovation and innovative individuals & teams and it can favor business driver stagnation over risk taking.

5 Signs of Self-Preservation

The following are signs of self-preservation

Highlighting the Journey of Innovation as Failure

Adversarial teams and individuals within an enterprise who are interested in self-preservation often go out of their way to highlight the tough, risky journey of true innovation as a failure citing the cost and the time being taken to address the real problems in a truly innovative manner. While the individuals and teams trying to innovate focus on and are driven by the problem and their proposed solution, self-preservationists are more interested in highlighting the delay in innovation pushing that as a reason to the individuals to be stopped and the teams to be disbanded.

Focus on Ownership Rather than Delivery

Individuals and teams interested in self-preservation often focus on owning as many of the critical problems that an enterprise faces as possible but not really focus on solving these problems in an authoritative manner. These individuals and teams are driven by preserving the status quo through a land grab of key problems and get consumed by this goal while the real solution delivery suffers.

Lack of Acknowledgement and Encouragement of Real Progress

Another behavior of individuals and teams interested in self-preservation is the lack of acknowledgment and encouragement for other individuals and teams who are making progress and deliver results. By either not acknowledging success or by actively portraying it as not impactful or necessary or having too low of a ROI, self-preservationists can cement the status quo.

Passive Aggressiveness in Impediment Handling

Self-preservationists often display passive aggressiveness tendencies when their support be it moral, technological, data or context is required for initiatives that can change the status quo. Passive aggressiveness often means that required support for an initiative is either held back or actively mismanaged to derail progress.

Problem Obfuscation

Self-preservationists often focus on obfuscating or misrepresenting problems in an attempt to misdirect individuals and teams focussing on trying to solve a problem. By hiding key details about a problem, the solution often can miss the mark and the entire initiative, even though carried out efficiently and accurately, can fall flat.

Dealing With Self-Preservationists

Senior leaders in an enterprise are the only and the last defense against an enterprise’s self preservation. A top down, concerted effort is required to detect self-preservation and actively dismantle it. Executives need to rise above the chatter and actively understand wherever self-preservation is occurring and move ahead. This requires a sharp focus and an aptitude that is trained to cut through layers of misdirection and misinformation to effectively identify and address self-preservation.

A key enabler for executives is high levels of visibility and transperancy enabled through an advanced analytics capability. The AI Company can help bring this transperancy and can empower executives to effectively remove self-preservationist behavior that is hurting the enterprise.


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