Innovate to death?

raynor.jpgThere’s a lot of talk in organizations about accelerating the speed of innovation in order to respond quickly to market shifts. This intuitively makes sense – particularly in today’s global economy. If you can’t innovate fast enough, the market changes, the competition eclipses you, etc. . . Or conversely if you innovate too quickly and lead too presciently in the marketplace it’s entirely possible to position yourself ahead of the market in a way where your product initiative can die also. See Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma

Michael Raynor suggests it is also possible to innovate at the speed of change and still perish. Albeit a slow death. Consider the Greenland Norse – initially a robust pilgrim community staking claim to southern Greenland. While they adapted well to the environment conditions, the global climate was steadily cooling making their growing seasons shorter, and harvests smaller. After 450 years as an adaptive Norse outpost in Greenland, the last inhabitants withered in their sod huts having consumed the last of their grain and livestock. Not because they failed to incrementally adapt to changing conditions, but because they failed to make paradigm-changing innovations in their behaviors.