This article is not so much about innovation theater (although it does make an appearance) as it is about the constraints of ‘legacy systems’ that emerge over time in large organizations. Many of these legacy systems manifest themselves as processes the organization must follow. As the author states:
As companies and agencies get larger, they start to value the importance of “process” over the “product.”… each layer of process reduces the ability to be agile and lean and — most importantly — responsive to new opportunities and threats … People who manage processes are not the same people as those who ‘create’ product …The process people dominate management, and the product people end up reporting to them.
The processes act as constraints or barriers on the company as it tries to respond to the disruption they are facing right now. The author goes on to say ‘organizations know they need to change, but often the result has been a form of organizational ‘whack-a-mole’ – a futile attempt at trying to swat at problems as they pop-up without understanding their root cause’ The result is often ‘organizational theater’ and ‘innovation theater’.
The author’s contrast of process obsession and product obsessions is an interesting one but he does not address here (he has elsewhere) what an innovation process should look like and how it is different than the processes that constrain the company. He does give a hint however when he states
… large organizations lack shared beliefs, validated principles, tactics, techniques, procedures, organization, budget, etc. to explain how and where innovation will be applied and its relationship to the rapid delivery of new product.
This is indeed true. It is (part) of a comprehensive innovation strategy that so many companies ignore and it is the place they should begin.