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Zombie innovation

July 10, 2013
Shannon Bayer

By Shannon Bayer

The world is always coming to an end in the entertainment business, and some of the biggest “threats” of the past few years in Hollywood—Zombies—are a perfect illustration of the importance of innovation.

Let me explain.

Historically, zombies have always been slow, dumb, and not really focused on anything more than creeping around trying to eat people. AMC’s popular Walking Dead is a prime example of this classic zombie definition. However, as the popularity of zombie movies and TV shows has grown, the definition of “zombie’ has broadened dramatically. Just look at this summer’s zombie blockbuster starring Brad Pitt—World War Z. The zombies in World War Z are viral. They’re fast pack hunters with overwhelming numbers who completely ignore everything but their prey.

So, what happens to humans when the zombies take over? The ones that survive are forced to adapt, change, and most importantly, innovate, because they’re in a life and death situation. Teachers learn to hunt. Artists learn first aid, and lawyers may even learn to sew. They must look at the world through a new lens because they will die if they simply cling to the status quo. It’s the combination of chaos and life and death necessity that often allows for true, game-changing innovation.

In the dystopian world of Zombie movies, survivors are quick to take commonplace items that were used one way and use them for completely different purposes. Golf clubs and Frisbees are useless toys when zombies are attacking, but a quick thinking human can turn a nine iron into a very effective weapon and a Frisbee can be used to send messages. And the survivors don’t just think of new ways to use common products, they come up with new ways of thinking.

So, what can we as leaders learn from zombies and survivors?

It’s no secret that the world has changed dramatically in the last five years. And while you could say that global economic turmoil and radical advancements in technology etc. aren’t really life threatening, the new, rapidly changing reality could certainly affect the life or death of your company, or your team, or your job.

So what choices do and your company have?

Well, you can be a classic, slow moving zombie that operates in the hollow ignorance that only worries about satisfying the base level needs of the status quo.

Or, you could be a fast, modern, powerful zombie who is singularly focused, runs over everything in its way, and misses many opportunities because of an inability to see the big picture.

Or you can be a survivor who adapts and excels by looking at the new world through a new lens.

I’m sure you’re thinking, we are the survivors. However, there are many companies and organizations that talk a good game of innovation, but don’t have the processes, capability, culture, understanding, or acceptance of how the world has changed to really make a difference. These companies are the slow zombies. They think they are moving quickly. In fact, they may even feel like they are rushing. But from the outside, it’s obvious that their cultural and procedural limitations will always keep them from ever getting where they need to go.

I’ve also met people in organizations who are absolutely committed to innovation, but are limited by tunnel vision like fast moving zombies. They want to create the next iPad, Netflix, or revolutionary new at home medical exam, but in reality, they’re only playing catch up. And they can’t see what’s happening on the periphery where their new market, product, or process may actually be.

So be honest, are you and your organization approaching innovation like it’s a life or death mission against an unrelenting hoard of killer zombies? You should be. And Linkage can help.

More about Shannon
Shannon Bayer is a Senior Consultant at Linkage. She specializes in providing facilitation and program design for innovation and change leadership. She also works with organizations to improve team effectiveness, negotiation, and coaching. Follow her on Twitter @ShannonJBayer.



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