According to professor Thomas Ward, if you ask a bunch of people to draw an alien the majority of them will present you with something looking like this. However, commonsense tells us that if mankind were ever to detect alien life the chances are that the alien would look anything but like a human.  And yet, because cinema once created an image of an alien with human like features, we tend to follow the norm and depict them that way. And so it is that once something has been invented, we tend to find it almost impossible to invent radical redesigns, but get stuck in cycles of minor modifications. This process is known as inadvertent plagiarism.

Professor Ward’s findings go a long way to explain the extremely slow pace of change in business environments. At times our nineteenth century notion of what a company is, how it is structured, managed and developed seems impossible to shake off. We seem only able to very gently modify their constructions.  Relatively small adjustments, like centralizing or decentralizing processes are still seen in many organisations as radical changes.

The internet too, is taking much longer than one would expect to change even the basics of our traditional distribution and retail structures, where the price we pay in the shop is over six times the original manufacturing cost, and the entity that proportionally the least is often the producer.

Therefore, if we are to expect our existing personnel to re-design our existing structures then we must, at the very least, try to inspire them to think the seemingly unthinkable. And when they do come up with something extremely radical then we need to take them very seriously, if genuine innovation has even the slightest chance of breaking through. After all, nature only advances through a series of errors and therefore we need to encourage errors if we are to advance at all.

My advice for your next brainstorming session is to begin by drawing an alien and to paste the results on the wall.  The artist whose work is furthest away from ET, should not only be given a prize, they should also be encouraged to lead the creative process from there on!

I am off to re-draw my alien, only then will I begin to tackle a distribution process I am struggling with at the moment.

Have a good week,