Terrible Innovator #2: The Talker

The following is a brief excerpt from Innovation and the Future Proof Bank, my text on corporate innovation. I identify six archetypes you should watch out for, and the second is “The Talker”.  From Chapter 9:

Now we come to the Talker, one of the most destructive of all innovators. The talker is a superlative communicator, and when you put one on a stage in front of an audience, you get inspirational words that create excitement for the innovation experience.

The Talker is also great at networking, and is able to get to practically anyone in an organisation. Usually only once, mind you, because the great failing of the Talker is they never do anything.

If only innovation was about giving speeches and taking meetings, Talkers would be the most successful innovators in the world. But unfortunately, it isn’t. There’s a lot of hard work involved, and a great idea may as well remain unthought-of if no one is going to work through the Key Questions to take things forwards.

Talkers, because they are great communicators and know how to open doors through their personal networks, will often have a greatly inflated view of their worth.  They imagine that because people are enthusiastic about their ideas they are successful. That, obviously, is not the case if an innovation team is being measured on actual changes they create.

Another thing to watch out for with the Talker is the regular status meeting with the innovation leader to whom they report. Because they are such great communicators, it is likely the case that the innovation leader will be lulled into a sense of security just because doors are opening that were unavailable before. The Talker will be excellent at doing smoke and mirror performances that make it look like progress is being made, even when it isn’t.

The key signal of a talker is that you get the same status updates all the time, with promises they are ‘close’ to closing new innovations. Or that they have ‘just one more meeting’ to get agreement. A real innovator would drown the puppy, and forget the ‘one more meeting’. Talkers, though, have nothing to back them up but the meetings they’ve been able to get.

As you’d expect, the Talker is also someone who burns influence. They do it at a great rate, because stakeholders, having met with them once or twice, realise that nothing is going to come of further interactions and stop letting innovators in. The Talker, who needs to get meetings to justify him or herself then moves on to the next stakeholder, where the same thing is repeated.

I’ll post the remaining 4 archetypes over December.

You can read about “The Gadgeteer” in this post.

Reprinted from Innovation and the Future Proof Bank, published by John Wiley & Sons. Copyright 2009.

One Response to“Terrible Innovator #2: The Talker”

  1. Patrick Gauthier
    December 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    James,
    Spot on. We have all encountered these and learnt to stay away.
    Patrick

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