We've all heard the phrase, "you can put a lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." It's meant to convey the idea that despite how much you try to change the façade, it doesn’t change the substance. So no matter how hard you try to make a pig look pretty, it will never be anything other than a pig.
Unfortunately, many organizations take this same approach to innovation. Instead of investing into new products or services, new experiences or strategies, they take a broken process and disguise it. This is an irresponsible change because it only addresses the appearance, not the substance.
Years ago, there was a technology provider that developed a solution – lipstick, if you will – that allowed their customers to bolt on new, innovative services to their legacy product in a way to address client needs. However, this lipstick approach occurred without refreshing or upgrading their client’s hardware and software. As you can imagine, the lipstick approach didn’t last long before major hardware constraints became prominent and created an even bigger challenge. As a result, the technology provider began hemorrhaging clients and lost significant market share. It forced them to realize their fatal approach: lipstick doesn’t change the pig.
Innovation requires a strategic approach. Sure there are tactical elements, but innovation on the fly rarely works. It must be thought through, planned, understood by everyone involved and most importantly have measurable outcomes. Lipstick cannot make something beautiful if it’s not beautiful from the start. And to be done right, it requires deliberate change – change that will support the future; not change to support the moment.
The most innovative companies approach innovation as a driver for change, not a result of change. Organizations that fail to take this approach fail at innovation and likely fail the market, their clients and their shareholders. Innovation isn’t lipstick; it’s something new altogether.
Remember, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.