I've begun to wonder if the concept of innovation in large corporation is an exercise in pointless navel gazing. And no, this isn't another bashing of brainstorming, or a recent conversion based on my experiences with faulty innovation logic. No, the challenge to innovation is based on the recent development of a core strength: focus, efficiency, time management. As businesses become more streamlined, more efficient, more time bound, there's ever less time for contemplation, exploration, and, God help us, simply thinking about concepts, needs and alternatives. They are too busy to innovate.
I write this after visiting the office of a client recently. I needed from her one fact, that only she seemed to possess. But regardless of when I visited her office, early in the morning, mid-day or late in the afternoon, she was in a meeting. In fact she ordered lunch to one meeting so she wouldn't waste time eating lunch. I finally interrupted one of her meetings to simply ask for the data, which she gave me after apologizing for not being available. When I left for the day she was still in meetings. While she may seem extreme, she is not an isolated case.
We've been taught to manage our time, focus on what is important, stay occupied and stay in demand. People who are constantly busy are hard to remove, while people who don't seem as engaged in day to day activities or whose capabilities or energies aren't focused on tomorrow's successes are often considered to be less useful or not contributing. Once we are all fully booked every working hour in meetings, discussions and debates we'll finally be fully efficient, and almost as assuredly innovation will wither and die.