Use Discomfort to Increase Innovation

Many organizational leaders desire change, innovation, and cutting-edge ideas to drive their organization, however, innovation antibodies hold things back and often kill ideas before they have a chance to breathe and be considered. The political sway these individuals have is often strong enough that a sweeping change in culture is not really an option. This a difficult position for leaders because in order for an organization to be creative and innovate, leaders must create a culture that is capable of the necessary courage to change, explore, and innovate while maintaining stability (Davila et al., 2012). Organizational leaders often get stuck trying to create change while maintaining stability. The good news is that there are other ways to raise the innovation quotient of organizations without sweeping culture change.

One option for neutralizing antibodies and raising innovation ability is making small, tolerable innovations that will be widely embraced and have a high probability of success (Turner, 1982). People are more likely to accept innovations proven to be successful rather than those that are simply ideas on paper (Turner, 1982). Demonstrating and showing success in innovations raises the organization’s tolerance level of innovation discomfort, allowing for greater innovation, particularly when the innovations benefit the antibodies directly (Turner, 1982).

A second option for increasing innovation without sweeping culture change is gradual culture change through new people. Whether employees, customers, or congregation members are the antibodies, if there is an influx of enough new people geared towards innovation and creativity (Dougherty et al., 2013), the discomfort will cause antibodies to get on board with change or remove themselves from the culture. Either way, the culture is changed and meaningful change can begin to occur (Drucker, 1998).


Davila, T., Epstein, M. J., & Shelton, R. D. (2013). Making innovation work: how to manage it, measure it, and profit from it (Updated ed). Upper Saddle River, N.J: FT Press.

Dougherty, K. D., Neubert, M. J., Griebel, J., & Park, J. Z. (2013). A religious profile of American entrepreneurs. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 52(2), 401–409.

Drucker, P. F. (1998). Peter Drucker on the profession of management. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

Turner, A. N. (1982). Consulting is more than giving advice. Harvard Business Review, 60(5), 120.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.