You will never be able to innovate in a way that conflicts with your unique company DNA. The organizational culture within your company won’t allow innovations like that to live. I’ve seen it happen many, many times over the years. Organizations react in an almost biological way to innovation where there is no tissue match. The body rejects it. The corporate antibodies attack the innovation and just destroy it.

But what do I mean by the company DNA? The sequence of your organization’s DNA covers how you collectively respond to new information, how you handle knowledge transfer, how you cluster ideas, how you align workers around a mission goal, how you create a runway to support innovation, and your appetite for risk. DNA includes the aspirations of the executive team and the balance in your portfolio between incremental and radical innovations.

Successful innovators investigate their DNA, then use that knowledge to deploy innovations with the best chance of market adoption. This strategy helps you pinpoint and jump to the next S-Curve where your business can thrive again.

You might have Nobel prize winners on your innovation team and it doesn’t matter. Many companies have tried going this route by creating a very smart group of innovators outside the company culture, doing whatever they do in a black box far from the influence of company culture. The smart innovators come up with fantastic results and brilliant ideas, but people in the company just kill the ideas. There is no path for getting the ideas to market and no buy in from the people that would have to be on board for the innovation to succeed.

Another common path is to integrate the smart innovation team back into corporate culture. You put a bunch of Nobel prize winners in little cubicles inside a political structure that they can’t navigate and the ideas just rot right where they are. There is no soil, no sunlight, and no water for them to survive. There is plenty of fertilizer.

You cannot follow your way to the front and you cannot build a business based on anyone else’s model. It will not work because the skill profile of your company is as unique as your fingerprint. Whatever it is that you do best is encoded in your business DNA.

Watch out for my six upcoming blog posts:

  • Part one: The pain of not knowing
  • Part two: Welcome to the field, General
  • Part three: Lessons from the master of war
  • Part four: Harley-Davidson does not sell motorcycles
  • Part five:  PayPal, Facebook, Shell Oil and Nokia
  • Part six: Hacking your DNA