Rethinking innovation – Part 9: Cost-cutting focus

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Attacking cost as a root problem (from this list) is a tantalisingly tempting trap to fall into. It is easy to sell, easy to grasp, and easy to execute. It may not solve deeper underlying human issues, but hey, I can produce nice spreadsheets and charts. Very rational and logical. Business is all about the numbers after all right?

The deeper root causes may not be so easy to tackle. Someone smart once said “all problems are people problems.” It is easier to count the beans than sort out Jack’s co-dependent relationship with his mother.

Isn’t it weird how numbers and charts always come across as rational and serious, even if we simply made up the numbers?

If we were to track the numbers in a large multinational organisation from the shop-front ledger on one side of the planet through to the tip of the most senior management pyramid at the other hemisphere, we would be appalled by the amount of fudging going on all the way up. Each level of consolidation adds to the margin of error. This is unavoidable, and very human.

And yet we hold on to the sanctity of our spreadsheets. Because we fear dealing with the less “rational” issues befalling our businesses. The icky, grey, human stuff. This is denial on a grand scale. And this denial keep many businesses stuck in patterns that do not enable anyone to flourish.

All problems are people problems. By retreating into the numbers, we avoid having to deal with humans. Is it any surprise that behind all (?) every business failure lie human relationship failures?

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