What is Innovation Theatre and How To Overcome it

Innovation Theatre is when a company, let’s say an enterprise, goes through a facilitated design thinking workshop, but the end result goes no where, or falls flat on its face.

Many organizations face this dilemma. As a UX Design Strategist I’ve been called in after design agencies have failed to galvanize and “wow” companies with their efforts. The innovation theatre felt great for some team members, but for others they felt over-collaboration or overlooked. As a result, whatever the agency produces will be under-whelming, or if they hand off the design prescription to in-house developers, it’ll often be negated by internal politics. Going no where.

How can we avoid the pitfall of innovation theatre?

For a company that is new to design thinking, it takes a fair amount of education to grasp, and then become second nature so that organization can continue to use design thinking throughout its life. Design thinking itself is the theory behind design strategy. This is all well and good for a company that sees it as an investment in its people. However, sometimes getting caught up in analysis paralysis will stifle innovation from actually happening. Especially, when team members are not used to seeing their ideas fail before their very eyes. It may be hard to stomach for some, and they instinctually disbelieve results from an A/B test whether qualitative or quantitative.

The way to overcome this, is by setting better expectations up front with an organization. Getting in a rhythm of failing, is the best way to move forward. Regrouping and revisiting what you learn from each failure as a team is how you keep people on your team engaged, because “failure is the best teacher.”